Top critical review
CALL ME WHATEVER YOU WANT TO.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 30 December 2018
Ok, so positives and this is why I rated this with 3 stars. The cinematography is beautiful. It captures that small town feeling really well. It could be in any of these countries: France, Spain, Italy Greece. If you've ever been to any of those countries and driven into the countryside you'll find a town like this. Dusty roads, the town square, a bank, a bar, people sitting outside watching the world go by, wooden shutters on the pastel coloured buildings and a church. You can almost smell orange and peach blossom in the air. It's just beautiful and this film evokes lovely memories for me.
SPOILER ALERTS SPOILER ALERTS
So, the story: handsome, athletic, popular, charming, sexy guy arrives at a large house in the countryside ostensibly to finish his own thesis, but also help the incumbent professor with research. The family are all intelligent, artistic and talented in different ways. The son is a clever teenage boy whose knowledge all comes from reading and not from life experiences and so, as he says later in the film "he knows nothing" . He is unsure of his emotional feelings, is very immature, some would say precocious and doesn't know where his sexual orientation lies. These are pretty common experiences for an adolescent as far as I remember, although that was a very, very long time ago!!. He is obviously attracted to the American visitor, but then so is everyone else, quite understandably!
Before continuing with the story, why do they converse with each other in different languages? French. german, italian? The boy even speaks french on and off with his female italian friend. Why exactly? I found it very tedious.
My view of the relationship between the two varies considerably from other viewers. For me, the 20+ American seems to be 'grooming' the boy...drawing him in and pushing him away, but each time drawing him closer. The boy is very unsure about his sexuality and embarks on a sexual relationship with a female friend...to check things out. Oliver, the American, eventually has sex with Elio after a fumbled attempt by Elio whilst they are out cycling together (he grabs Oliver's crotch). Is it love? Well, in my opinion it wasn't, but obviously that's just my opinion.
When Oliver has to return to the US at the end of the summer, the two head off together to spend some time alone with each other. One night Elio get very drunk and sick, meanwhile Oliver is dancing with a lady who happens to be listening to a song which Oliver knows. The two part at the railway station with the usual "I'll never forget you" speech and Elio returns home saddened by the loss of the man who gave him his first homosexual encounter.
Forward to winter. The family have returned to their country residence. Oliver phones and speaks to Elio's parents first. He is then handed over to Elio and in the space of no time at all, announces that he is getting engaged in the spring! So, the love he had for Elio was so real that 4 months later he tell him he is about to marry. Well that's love for you!
For the final scene, which in my view, is the best piece of acting in the film, Elio stares into the fire and says nothing, but his face speaks volumes.
The acting is okay, although I found some of it wooden at times. There are moments of super acting and others where they just seem to be walking through the words.
After watching the film I had to read the book just to see what I had missed. In the book it appeared to me that Elio was 'stalking' Oliver. He is especially jealous when Oliver disappears regularly at night time. For Elio, this can only mean one thing. Oliver is having sexual encounters with pretty much everyone and anyone. At one point he even imagines him having sex with their handyman.
I couldn't find any reference to the finding of an Hellenic bronze in the book. Perhaps I missed it? Why put in a scene which doesn't exist in the book, yet leave out so many important scenes which do?
The latter part of the book is very different from the film. The pair head off to Rome. They have been treated to a beautiful room in a posh hotel, courtesy of Elio's father. Quite different from the pensione in the film. Here Elio has a 'road to Damascus' experience. The beauty of Rome, the friendship of Oliver's fiends, the acceptance of their relationship, the freedom to be free. Yes, Elio, does get very drunk and yes he is sick. However, the scene where Oliver dances with a stranger? It doesn't happen. Why was that added when so much of importance was left out? Obviously to make a film based entirely on the book would made it far too long, I appreciate that. However, I felt that some parts were added/removed/altered quite unnecessarily.
For me, "God's Own Country" was a far, far superior film. The cinematography in that was just as good as in CMBYN. Totally different of course, but it captured the feel of winter in the wilds of Yorkshire perfectly for me. The acting was much better as was the storyline. If you haven't watched tat film I highly recommend you buy/rent/watch it.