Zā’s review published on Letterboxd:
I had such a huge desire to love this film. I read the book and it was easily my top three reads of 2017. Like there wasn't any doubt in my mind that there was any way to mess up this film for me and I was wrong. Just a forewarning, a lot of this is me talking about how the film doesn't live up to the book. Now I know we should all find ways to separate adaptations from the originals, but it's hard when the original tremendously blew you away after finishing it. So bear with me.
I'll backtrack a little and just talk about the film itself. I'll admit the age difference is a big part of the story and it doesn't necessarily bother me because it takes place in the 80s and contextually, age difference wasn't a big deal before gayness was openly accepted by society. I mean you take whatever connection made, which few and far in between. So that's my take behind it, but I'm not going to fight anyone on their criticisms on it because they're still valid critiques.
The film makes for the idea that smart and rich people are inherently interesting. We want to know how these people live because we don't have lives exciting as getting to vacation in Italy during the summer studying art and linguistics. That really made me mad with the first half of the film because basically that's what this was. Just watching the rich and intelligent. It bored me. Sure, this is in the book too, but the words and how the book is written is a million times more dazzling than a peaceful summer in Italy. We get to hear the million thoughts buzzing through Elio's mind all day long. We hardly get to hear much of what he thinks in this. Granted, narration would have killed the way this was filmed, but at the same time, I just felt like I was cheated of the characters I fell in love with in the book.
Then we move on to my least favorite trope in queer male cinema. In the book, both Oliver and Elio are bisexual. Oliver has outings with women and Elio expresses that he loves the girl he takes as a girlfriend. Of course he's conflicted because he loves them both, and admittedly Oliver moreso. However, in the film the girl is thrown away in order to advance the plot of Elio as being gay and in love with Oliver so I didn't like that.
I'd also like to point out in the body erotica department, we see breasts with nipple and only two ass shots - one from each. This is an incredibly erotic story and I feel like we get NOTHing from the guys and like... this is straight bullshit there. I've sat through so much straight sex, why do these straight directors think guy on guy sex is too much to show on screen??? (Well we know one reason @ the mpaa) Overall I just think there wasn't enough focus on their physical relationship, which was just as powerful as their emotional one. (Hell I don't think we even get enough that either.)
So because so much was gutted from the book to the movie, I just didn't feel the relationship as powerfully. I didn't get the pure gut-wrenching moments. I didn't get the pure moments of vicarious love you get from romance novels. It just existed and didn't move me. Hell, this was the first award frontrunner I've seen so far that hadn't made me cry, which says something because the novel made me sob.
Now of course I didn't hate it all. There were some incredible highlights. Like Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio's father giving the amazing monologue from the book about how special the love Elio shared with Oliver was incredible. I wish there were more moments like that that expressed the beauty in the majesty of the novel. And I know it's something that's a bit astranged with the rest of the story, but I love the peach scene. It's so erotic and different. There's also plenty of places where I can see that there is masterful direction with great use of scene. There's also a great score with THREE beautiful songs from Sufjan Stevens in this. I hope that kid gets two Oscars, both tied for Best Song.