The romantic and emotional complications involved in sustaining a years-long affair gets sensitive, intelligent examination in 28 Hotel Rooms, a deceptively simple but endlessly intriguing drama. Propelled by the chemistry of leads Chris Messina and Marin Ireland (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), the feature debut of writer/director Matt Ross has a fetching hook, offering a look into the ups and downs of an adulterous couple entirely through their 28 encounters in different hotels. But what could easily have been a gimmick turns out to be a smart, incisive way to illustrate how every love affair eventually comes with strings attached.
As its title indicates, the film consists of a series of sequences – each in a different hotel room – between an unnamed New York writer (Messina) and a Seattle accountant (Ireland) over the span of several years. When they have their first fling, she’s married, but as they continue to meet up for secret sexual trysts, he gets involved with a serious girlfriend as well. Moral watchdogs won’t be pleased with Ross’ non-judgmental treatment, but 28 Hotel Rooms is nonetheless incredibly moving in its depiction of the challenges of making love last – even if it’s a love that’s a betrayal of others.
Tim Grierson, Screen International