Directed by Luca Guadagnino
In a London Film Festival where so many films showed destroyed, deprived, mangled childhoods, it was a guilty pleasure to bask in a young person’s world of warm, sensual privilege, of understanding parents, of a life of ease, food, and sweet melancholy. This lotus land of perpetual afternoon is inhabited by the affluent academic multi-lingual family of teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet) in their Italian country house, where there’s nothing much to do all summer but lounge, swim, wander the countryside, hang out with other beautiful young people, flirt, and eat the good food provide by adoring servants. And compose and play brilliant music – for Elio is a talented musician, another virtue of this almost too charismatic boy. All skinny legs and peach-like skin, his summer acquires a sharper edge with the arrival of American academic Oliver (Armie Hammer), some years older than him, classically beautiful, relaxed and essentially, well, nice, as a vacation assistant for Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Self assured and politely American, he adapts quickly to the louche European ways of the household, and it’s soon clear that an attraction of sorts is developing between the two young men, exacerbated by the fact that their rooms are semi-connected via a bathroom. A langorous series of encounters leads to what has clearly been inevitable from the outset, their relationship almost a manifestation of the lush summer itself, and with the always attendant melancholy that, like the summer, it is too beautiful not to end. Such sweet sorrow. The final sadness, when it comes, is made sense of by the wise words of Elio’s father about how even the most painful experiences and losses are to be welcomed as part of ourselves. While, for me, its sweetness is a little one-note and lacks the perfect, irrational joy of Guadagnino’s I Am Love (and certainly the humour and critical edge of A Bigger Splash), it’s a film to bask in, everyone’s lost summer of youth and total pleasure in being themselves. Indulgent, irrecoverable.