Written by: Hannah Tran | June 22nd, 2023
Love Gets a Room (Rodrigo Cortés, 2021) 3 out of 4 stars.
That old saying “the show must go on” has rarely felt more relevant than in Rodrigo Cortés’ Love Gets a Room, which follows a group of actors in real-time as they perform a musical stage play in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. At its center, a young actress named Stefcia must decide whether she will accept her fellow actor and former lover’s offer to escape together that night despite having found new love with another one of the actors at the theater. What follows is a beautiful story about the power of performance and the perseverance of love through some of the most horrific conditions.
There is an immediately captivating realness to the film’s artistic and technical direction. Opening with an impressive 11-minute single-take scene that moves through the Nazi-occupied city, Cortés (Down a Dark Hall) brings you up close and personal with the violence and fear that permeated the city. This also serves as the perfect introduction to the chaotic lives and interpersonal dramas that run through the theater for the remainder of the film. The carefully crafted mise-en-scène of the stage world paired with the charming original music of the play and the live singing also help to establish the setting and foster its believability.
There is so also much warmth that emanates from the performances. As Stefcia, Clara Rugaard (Press Play) captures the strength and exhaustion of the character. Although Stefcia’s motivations are occasionally unclear, Rugaard still manages to make her sympathetic and relatable. The supporting performances all impress, as well, but Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (CODA) as her current partner stands out with his level of sensitivity. A scene with Rugaard and Walsh-Peelo singing to each other within the play from opposite sides of a room divider ends up being one of the film’s strongest, and it shows how much of the character’s lives behind the stage bleed into their performance on it.
Despite how much I care about the story, the action in it sometimes feels repetitive. How many times can a person miss their cue before it stops being an effective tool for suspense? And although the tension builds to a surprising resolution that might come across as overly simple, the final moments of the film are so emotionally satisfying that it does not matter. Love Gets a Room is an incredibly moving story that is filled with tension and the terror of the time it is set in. It’s inevitably bittersweet, although it still manages to be heartwarming in its message about the intersection of the love for one’s craft and the love of others.