Of lazy Italian summer nights.
It took me two sittings on different transatlantic flights to get through Luca Guadagnino’s much vaunted coming of age film. And I accept that this piecemeal approach might not have enhanced my opinion of the movie. Because I’m going to upset some of you who claimed it to be your “film of the year” last year. While I enjoyed it, it certainly didn’t grab me like that.
What I will admit is that the film is gloriously sun-drenched and atmospheric, set as it is in the countryside around Crema in northern Italy. Shut your eyes and you can almost smell the olive trees and the bolognese simmering on the stove.
The story, set in 1983, concerns the 17 year-old musical prodigy Elio (Timothée Chalamet, “Lady Bird“, “Interstellar“) who, with his good looks, has the opportunity to seduce his fair share of Italian babes, specifically the gorgeous Marzia (Esther Garrel) who has the hots for him. Although not one to look a gift vagina in the mouth, Elio is sexually conflicted and finds himself increasingly drawn, romantically, to the dashing and cock-sure 24-year old American visitor Oliver (Armie Hammer, “Free Fire“, “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.“): a feeling that is, initially, reluctantly returned.
The Oscar-winning screenplay by James Ivory (he of Merchant and Ivory production fame) is rich and deep with lines that roll off the actors’ tongues like syrup. The action also includes the most inappropriate use of foodstuffs since “American Pie” (and presumably that went in the bin afterwards!).
The drama is slow and drawn-out, so action-film fans will be asleep within the first 30 minutes. That wasn’t a problem for me…. it is a film in which you can really soak up the atmosphere. And it exquisitely explores the genuine pain of first love.
But what I’m afraid I really couldn’t relate to was Elio’s action about half-way through the film. In the main, he acts as a typically introspective and sensitive teenager, slightly awkward and bashful in approaching sexual matters. But then in a pivotal scene he makes a daring move which – to me – seemed completely out of character. This rather threw me, and I never really got my equilibrium back with the movie after that.
It’s no doubt a finely crafted film. The sex scenes are beautifully shot and could never be accused of veering towards the pornographic. But I’m honestly not sure it’s a film that gripped me enough to seek it out to watch again in the future. (Sorry CMBYN lovers!)
Fad Rating: FFFf.