Awards season is well and truly upon us with the release of Luca Guadagnino's eagerly-anticipated adaptation of Andre Aciman's novel of the same name.
This is a film I’ve known about for quite some time. Since its excellent reviews at the beginning of the year and it's fifteen minute standing ovation at Cannes, although by now you have to wonder what the people at Cannes wouldn't stand for.
However it does possesses a story that will resonate with many. An established actor in need of more recognition in Armie Hammer, and a sizzling juggernaut of a leading performance by a relative newcomer in Timothee Chalamet, and it'd be cruel not to mention the superb supporting cast as well.
On paper the film is a simple coming of age drama. Elio (Chalamet) is enjoying his rather lavish life 'Somewhere in Northern Italy' as we're told in the opening scenes, but he is no outcast eg, last year’s best picture winner Moonlight or criminally under appreciated Edge of Seventeen, he adores attention and none more so than that of family friend and Parisian, Marzia (a wonderfully surprising performance from French actress Esther Gabriel), itself a beautifully intricate sub-plot throughout.
However, as the plot details, the story is driven by the flowering romance between Elio and Oliver (Hammer), an intern invited to stay with the family by Elio's father. That to a steady, wise performance by Michael Stuhlbarg (Steve Jobs).
On the whole, I did find the first 45 minutes somewhat pretentious, and at times quite self-indulgent, with some scenes unnecessarily lavish - for example when Oliver and Elio's father engage in a five minute history lesson on the origin of Latin phrases.
Obviously, you can't fault the acting, as the lines are delivered, especially those between the leads, with the innocence, sexually-charged energy and pure charisma that you would expect from a film and cast so hotly tipped to contend in major categories at the Oscars. I did, however, grow into the film in its final hour, with the sharp dialogue between the two leads, coupled with the incredible backdrop of the score by Sufjan Stevens. But the main reason is undoubtedly Timothee Chalamet's ever changing performance.
The way he ebbed and flowed from mature, sophisticated teenager, wiser than his years, to confused, impressionable and frightened of himself is really what I felt the whole film leaned on. There’s no doubt Armie Hammer gives his always solid performance, but it is purely a starter to the main event, even if for the first twenty minutes I was imagining one of the Winklevoss twins had run away to Italy.
There are some wonderfully moving scenes in this film, none more so than the monologue delivered by Elio's father (Stuhlbarg) to him at the end, a scene even in the cinema I could see being played as it's read out as a best picture nominee at the Oscars in March. There is also a 'peach' of a scene that I’m sure many people have heard or read about (I’ll let you discover that on your own).
Overall the film is no doubt a wonderfully crafted piece of cinema, with top-drawer performances throughout However it's directed so lavishly and cleanly that audiences may find it, as I did at times, slightly contrived and insincere.