This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
michaelgonzalez’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
(Logs onto Gold Derby and furiously inserts 'Visions of Gideon' as the winner for best original song).
I really admired a lot about this film. It's aesthetically gorgeous, my favorite shot coming in the latter third of the film when Elio and Oliver run joyfully in a green paradise, with a grand waterfall serving as the backdrop of their perfect moment. Chalamet and Hammer have tremendous chemistry, which allowed me to become invested in their relationship despite not much foundation for their relationship other than physical connection. Then again, in real life, physical affection, chemistry, and simple companionship can create a wonderful romance (not that I would know).
What's more is that the film sounds beautiful. As you can tell, I walked out a huge fan of Sufjan Stevens' work on the film despite never listening to any of his music. The score is angelic as well, and there are instances in the film where the score and soundtrack get cut off by abrupt silence. While this did throw me off at first, I thought it was an interesting technique to differentiate "feelings" and "moments". The music is usually utilized to emphasize simple circumstances, such as riding bikes down a country road - this is a happy experience for Elio, one which doesn't hold much significance other than the fact that he is "happy". The music then takes its leave when a more intimate moment arises between Elio and Oliver, as this is a concrete memory, one Elio will likely relive until the end of his days.
Speaking of the "end of his days," I think the film works interestingly from the perspective of an older Elio looking back on this time in his life, or even just when he's sitting by the fire at the end of the film, thinking about how everything had unfolded. The film certainly asserts the audience into Elio's perspective, such as when the camera loses focus when he is intoxicated. The fading in-and-out editing technique can also be seen as a fading of memories overlapping over each other. The concept of memories and reminiscing is enforced by the film's metaphorical inclusion of historical monuments and artistic treasures, specifically sculptures highlighting mythical beauty. The idea of memorializing something beautiful obviously speaks to Elio's story, but more specifically the idea of preserving physicality rings especially true. No matter how clear and distinct your memories are, you can never relive moments of physical bliss, whether it be a simple touching of hands or a passionate kiss. As happy as these moments make Elio (and us), it is equally as devastating when we can remember them, yet they elude our grasp, never to be *felt* again.
Space plays a huge role in the film, and Guadagnino uses it in the most effective situations possible. Whether it be Oliver leaving and re-entering a room and ultimately sitting behind Elio while he plays the piano, or when Elio confesses his confused sexuality to Oliver from across a historical battle site, insecurity and intimacy are expressed in subtle ways which I appreciated very much. Guadagnino also established a motif of closing doors very early in the film. At first, a door slams itself shut, leaving Oliver and Elio in a somewhat uncomfortably intimate environment. At the end of the film, the closing train door completely disconnects the two forever. The doors between their room create a sentimental spectrum ranging from envy to eroticism, and it was a simple yet effective detail I appreciated.
The film is not without its faults in my eyes, however. I think the film focuses too much time on what I believed to be pointless characters or moments, time that should've been spent on the relationship between Elio and his parents, so that the few scenes they share together would have had more of an impact. Stuhlbarg's monologue is as good as everyone says, and the writing and performance in that scene nearly brought tears to my eyes, though the moment would've probably destroyed me if his character actually had some development. I also felt the beginning dragged a bit, but these faults could potentially change upon a rewatch.
Ultimately, the film really worked for me emotionally due to it's excellent and visceral representation of longing for a time and place you can never have again (the finite nature of time and our existence is a theme I love to find in just about every film, see my 'A Ghost Story' review). I could see my score rising, but for now I give it 4 out of 5 peaches.