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28 Hotel Rooms

Year: 2012
Production Co: Mott Street Pictures
Director: Matt Ross
Writer: Matt Ross
Cast: Chris Messina, Marin Ireland

Definitely what it says on the tin. We meet Woman (Marin Ireland) and Man (Chris Messina) as they conduct a love affair in a series of liaisons in hotels whenever they manage to find themselves in the same city. And yes, there are 28 of them.

The theme is love. But rather than the magic of finding someone and sharing a spark, it's about the pain it can cause when you find that spark with someone and you're already attached to someone else.

He's a writer in town in a book promotions tour, she's a data engineer. They get talking in a hotel bar, and the attraction leads to the inevitable. Through a series of vignette scenes, we learn he got a girlfriend and she's married. Some of them are detailed and full of dialogue, some are just the pair lying together or making love, one is just her sitting on the bathroom floor crying softly.

Throughout what appears to be the next couple of years when they get together, he has more than one relationship, the latest of which turns serious, and after her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter, she's even less inclined to leave her devoted but boring husband.

Partway through they admit they love each other – that it's much more than just fun in the odd hotel room – but in other scenes he's screaming that she's a 'f@&king c%$t' and crashing his fist against the hotel room door as she leaves. There's pain as well as pleasure in this relationship – sometimes because of the peculiarities of the relationship itself and sometimes because that's just what love is.

You expect (even want) them to throw caution to the wind, rush into each others' arms, vow to leave their significant others and stay together, and the final incompletely-stated scene seems to indicate they're doing just that before it fades suddenly to black as the film ends.

But it's more about the journey than the destination. Writer/director Matt Ross keeps it slight, not even letting us know their names thanks to a conceit where they appear to have agreed not to tell each other.

Messina looks like a fairly generic matinee idol-type and he normally acts as one, but he has enough angry and passionate energy to give his character what it needs. Ireland is more about physicality, her soft features, wide smile, doe eyes and feminine voice enough to make you fall in love with her right along with him.

It's an actor's piece and not really an exercise in scripting or plot, so it might leave some viewers cold. But if you've ever felt an attraction you couldn't (or shouldn't) act on, it's a vibrant and necessary comment on the human plight of love.

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