Directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg
I am not the only person to fall deeply in love with this film. It is a romance for anyone who has fallen in love, who remembers their first real deep love. It’s a romance for the ages. It is also coming of age film and very much a family film.
Timothee Chalamet delivers a genuinely perfect portrayal of Elio, a bright, confident and slightly cocky 17 year old with still so much to figure out. He spends his summers in Italy with his highly educated, liberal professor parents in a gorgeous estate in Northern Italy. He speaks a number of languages and spends time reading and writing music as well as hanging out with other young people also visiting the Italian countryside for the summer. His world is shaken when Oliver, the handsome charismatic graduate student arrives. He is caught off guard and a little bit uncomfortable with his attraction to Oliver, but his desire to be near him and his curiousity take him on a journey we imagine he wasn’t expecting.
The two other films directed by Luca Guadagnino that I have seen, I Am Love and A Bigger Splash were very memorable, a bit quirky, gorgeous, also set in the same region of northern Italy and starred Tilda Swinton. This one was different. First of all, no Tilda. And while I enjoyed Luca’s other films, they always seemed a bit too glamorous, campy and perhaps a bit pretentious at times. This film was much more genuine and relatable.
Timothee Chalamet shines as Elio, and many critics are touting him for an Oscar nomination. There are other great performances here as well. Michael Stuhlbarg, always solid, is absolutely perfect in the role of Elio’s father and Oliver’s mentor. There is one scene at the end of the film where he shares some fatherly advice with Elio and all parents should take good notes here. The scene made by heart swell…again…because my heart swelled a few times throughout the film. Some folks have been critical of Armie Hammer’s casting, saying that it should have been played by a gay actor or that the subject of a 17 year old engaged in a relationship with a 24 year old crosses the line and somehow this translates to criticizing Armie Hammer. If I listed every straight role played by a gay actor, this piece would be pages long. I commend Armie for stretching outside of his comfort zone. I would actually like to see more straight men play gay parts as perhaps it would help dissolve some homophobia that exists in the world. Another thing that strikes me is that I never hear noise about straight women playing lesbians. As for the age discrepancy, certainly there a point where the gap becomes a concern, but in my opinion it is not 17 and 24. Funny, I bet a 17 year old female and 24 year old male in a relationship isn’t as difficult for people to get their heads around. Perhaps these are new double standards.
I really felt this film was tastefully done and the casting was spot on. The focus is the evolution of their beautiful love affair. As I said initially, this could be billed as a family film, maybe for families with teenage children, definitely one all parents should see. The gorgeous musical score, the cinematography, the setting, the screenplay, the performances, we are sure to see this one warm the hearts of the academy and receive several nominations. I have not felt so moved by a love story since the English Patient and I cannot wait to see it again.