alex’s review published on Letterboxd:
THIS REVIEW IS SPOILER FREE. As a consequence, I'll be dealing with the more technical sides of the movie. In the future I might write an spoilery one so I can gush about every detail I love and how I view their psychological and philosophical impact.
I had the fantastic opportunity to rewatch this a day after my first viewing, which implies that I now have a much more insightful overall view of the film and finally feel prepared to review it. Not to mention that after the first watch I left the theatre speechless with such an emotional, mental, and physical high that my whole body was shaking and all I could do with myself was go for a 30 minutes long run. I haven't exercised since my last PE class in high school 3 years ago, so I hope that in itself says enough about how invigorating I found it to be.
As a cinematography major, it's incredibly fulfilling to finish a movie feeling like you're going down the right path in life because you've been proved and reminded once again why you're so in love with this industry and art.
First of all, I would like to specify that I read the book (not one, but three times) before watching. If you have yet to watch it, I beg you, please, get that done before you get the chance to. With this I don't want to say that the movie is weakly adapted and needs the source material for it to actually work. Far from that, actually, since I believe this is an extraordinary adaptation that wonderfully translates the original piece of literature into an honest audiovisual representation of the core messages it wishes to convey. The dialogue is copied exactly from the book in many instances and, while it takes out bits I wish had remained, it did keep everything that was necessary for it to feel solid. However, there are so many little details that Guadagnino has inserted along the movie, both through visual motives, objects, and body language, that are SO much more fulfilling to watch when you know exactly where they are coming from. At its best both pieces work conjointly; what makes this adaptation so outstanding is that it isn't only the movie that feels incomplete without the book, but also the other way around, even if you were perfectly content with just the book up till before your first viewing. Once you have those two hours of visual content stored in your brain, there's no going back: both pieces become two sides of the same coin.
And what a marvelous coin that is, for with it you can buy the enchanting experience that it is watching Timothée Chalamet transform into Elio in what might be my favorite portrayal of a teenage role in the history of film (at least it certainly is after both of James Dean's performances in Rebel Without A Cause and East of Eden). Having seen interviews of the actor before, I was very pleasantly surprised by the drastic shift of aura. You forget 'Timmy' and leave him behind for a couple of hours as he is replaced by this whole new different person. Elio is a very particular character and Timothée did not fail to bring him to life one bit. I've never felt as entranced by someone's corporeal language, had never understood so superbly just how much faces can convey, nor felt so connected to a character without the need of dialogue. From the way he walked to his most subtle gestures, the way he showed affection to those around him, and of course, how fervently and vivaciously receptive his body was during more intimate scenes, every single aspect of his performance was simply mindblowing. Every single thing you've read about him having huge potential to join this year's Academy's Best Actor nominations is absolutely true. He is, without a doubt, the most notorious factor of the whole film.
But it's not only him who delivers an impeccable performance. I can't imagine anyone playing Oliver as accurately as Armie Hammer has. It feels so cliche to say that he's perfect for the role, but it's completely true, for he has captured the very essence of the character. When Oliver smiles, it's in the most genuine of ways. You can really tell just how tender and entranced he turns around Elio, how his cooler and more reserved facade begins to fall apart to be replaced by devoted gazes and grins that claim I want nothing more than to make you happy. We are so lucky to live in a world where we get to meet this character through Hammer's interpretation of him.
The chemistry between both leads is notably present throughout the whole film. Both share a complicity conveyed with upmost subtlety and elegance, while managing to remain raw and vibrant, mostly during the more sensual scenes. At no moment did their exchanges feel lacking. Actually, they were electrifying, full of spark that made you feel warm all over.
The never ending praises extend to Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, and Esther Garrel, who all bring their own precious magic to already lovable characters. They're all perfectly cut pieces of the same beautiful puzzle.
With the help of a magnificent soundtrack, a photography that sucks you in with it's gorgeous and inviting colors and composition, and the already beautiful landscapes of Northern Italy, you're left feeling like what you're experiencing is closer to a dream than to reality.
Ultimately, this film has won a place as one of my favorite movies ever for its excellent way of portraying a story that was already very close to my heart. I can't wait to exhaustively rewatch it so I can analyze every shot and fall even deeper in love with it.
You can find my review of the book here.