To Rome with Love is available to rent or buy on iTunes.
This 2012 Woody Allen film has been much derided by critics for its flippant, shallow, and ‘touristy’ representation of a great city. However, said critics might be missing the point, as the inherent shallowness and superficiality of tourism are the central themes explored in To Rome With Love.
Structurally, the film consists of four seemingly unrelated stories, all set in Rome. Each one depicts a short-term, holiday-like foray into a new life experience from which the characters safely return “home”, having only had a taste of the life of a celebrity (Roberto Benigni), the success of an opera superstar (Fabio Armiliato), a bohemian dream of a reckless love affair (Jesse Eisenberg) and sexual freedom (Alessandro Tiberi and Alessandra Mastronardi).
The exploration of the superficiality of - and ultimate dissatisfaction with - such experiences is not new to Woody Allen, who has already dealt with these issues in Midnight in Paris, which wittily turns nostalgia-tourism into something quite literal and, arguably, in Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona, whose American protagonists go on a tour of European bohemia and romance of a kind they must have read about in novels.
For the last ten years or so Allen has enjoyed the financial support of various European organisations and thus has set his latest films on this side of the pond, but he admirably has never pretended to be anything but a tourist in the great cities of Europe and manages to turn this potential weakness into a thematic strength. The picture-postcard cinematography of To Rome with Love works wonderfully to reinforce the theme of the superficiality of tourism, which helps the film achieve a rare unity of style and substance, while at the same time allowing the audience to indulge in this short-lived pleasure.