There’s a whole branch of journalism dedicated to the various aspects of once-modern life that Generation Z, in all its supposed power, is apparently killing. “How Generation Z killed cash.” “How Generation Z killed jeans.” “How Generation Z killed terrestrial television.” Move on over to the property market and the murderous spree ramps up even further: It’s the children of the millennium, you see, who killed home ownership, not the bankers and buyers and economists who came before them. Recently, an architectural magazine took a more specific tack with a “how Generation Z killed the spare room” article: Young people, according to such analysts, want the shared, compromised spaces in which they’re forced, by cosy incomes and capacious rents, to live.
Along comes Georgian director Ioseb “Soso” Bliadze’s gorgeous A Room Of My Own, with its suitably Virginia Woolf-referencing title, to remind anyone who’s somehow forgotten, that privacy and independence haven’t lost any currency across the generations — least of all for young women, the demographic that society has always been least inclined to leave the hell alone. The room in question isn’t anything special — it’s narrow and dim, clearly the short-straw option in the already cramped Tbilisi apartment that contains it — and its new occupant, 25-year-old divorcee Tina (Taki Mumladze), doesn’t see it as much of a prize at first. But if there’s no changing its compact dimensions, in the course of this surprising, exploratory relationship drama, it gradually opens itself up to her, affording her more space than she’s ever imagined or been allowed.
Of course, generational economies being what they are, this new home isn’t really hers, much less hers alone. She shares the flat with garrulous, hard-partying stranger Megi (Mariam Khundadze) —who, as cinematic tradition dictates, is her opposite number personality-wise, until one day, in the blink of an adjusted eye, she isn’t anymore. From The Odd Couple to Girlfriends to the recent Irish charmer Animals, the roommate movie has always played out in the few degrees of separation between aggravation and affection, loneliness and neediness––our dual impulses toward isolation and empathy.
That Bliadze’s film, wittily and perceptively co-written with leading lady Mumladze, takes things to further, less expected degrees feels like a natural outcome of its specific era. Set and shot during a period of COVID restrictions in Georgia, A Room Of My Own is perhaps the first entry in the hastily invented, often contrived genre of pandemic cinema to truly, organically identify the ways in which human connections adapt and evolve at a time when your social life is shaped and limited by law rather than your own inclinations.
This is a film of precious, fragile in-between time, with both the young women at its centre waiting for life to move on from a period of limbo, and not just as defined by the pandemic: Tina expects soon enough to move out of the flat and in with a new boyfriend, while Megi is holding out for a US visa to change her life’s course entirely. Friendships here are for the moment, but also maybe for life — who’s to say? A Room Of My Own makes a gentle, good-humoured case for Generation Z, not quite of their own volition, having killed the very idea of settling down, and having lost the luxury of permanence and stability. The surprise is how much beauty and possibility the film finds in that loss.
Guy Lodge is a London-based film critic for Variety, a columnist for The Observer and co-editor of the weekly review site Film of the Week.
This is one of ten essays specifically commissioned for BFF22.
Saturday 12 November 22 – 12pm at the Queen’s Film Theatre. Get your tickets here.