Warning. This review contains spoilers. Also I have not read a book, I plan to.
It is one of those movies – it blows your mind. You watch and rewatch it trying to grasp, understand how you got hooked, why it got under your skin, how it managed to create this instant recognition. Tears roll down your face to Sufjan’s softly voiced love ballad cast over shots of pure joy shared by two twin flames, two souls who incredibly found each other – you sob because you know that the end is near and the weight of impending loss is overpowering. You mourn having never experienced love so fully. You never walked the edge, so in love that you were free from gravity, fully alive.
Mystery of love indeed. Scenes – beautiful, sensual, impeccably written, directed, shot and played – roll one after another weaving a familiar, yet not like any other love story. Look at these two. And sobs are back.
You watch on the edge of the seat, even if streaming it on your phone, you move closer to the screen, wanting to be there, to immerse yourself into this magic, you long for your own love story of this intensity, you forget to breathe afraid to miss a look, a gesture, a change in tone.
The story oscillates from subtle to graphic, from funny to profound. Oliver wants to be good, yet he is drawn to Elio, and Elio is young and inexperienced, yet he is sensual and not afraid. They both take a risk and win big. They read each other so well that it infatuates. Their shared feeling is infectious.
First touch during the voleyball game. Oliver’s Converses on the dancefloor. Elio with Oliver’s trunks on his head. The carefully coded confession. Oliver glistening like one of those sculptures they are studying after he wets his hair in the river. How Elio kisses. The nosebleed. The handshake. The note. The feet. The peach scene, one of my favourite.
Then train. There is always a train. As the certain symbol of the end, it whisks away our lovers and rarely brings them back. And so Oliver is gone, Elio is sobbing in the phone booth and my heart has been ripped out of the ribcage. I sob with Elio, if not more, and then the finale flatlines me leaving me drowning in my sorrow while keeping Kleenex in business.
C’est la vie. All good comes to an end. Nothing gold can stay (Robert Frost). Love = loss. The credits roll and I already miss the Italian summer with its joie vivre and colours and hot intensity (and peaches). I miss these two and what they had and I miss, I miss the feeling that this film gives you. It captures, encapsulates love, then pushes it into your veins – I feel 20 again, nothing is impossible and I feel exactly like Sufjan sings.
This is the secret of this film and why I have now rewatched it 5 or 7 times back to back – it is a lovingly assembled time capsule, a snapshot of what love looks and feels like, so precise that like a magic potion it gets you high on love. It’s as if someone made a story of the best bit of your life – that summer of love. Elio!! Oliver!! Thank you.