aja’s review published on Letterboxd:
I had to take a day or two before logging this because the fact that I am able to sit here and write this review after waiting almost a year to see this movie is very surreal. I almost wish that I could think of some clever and brief joke that would perfectly encapsulate my feelings towards this movie / the book, but my relationship with this story is far too complex for that.
My relationship with this movie can be summarized by a series of memories. I remember Jan. 24th, when it debuted at Sundance and a sea of rave reviews flooded twitter. I also remember the naive excitement I felt when I assumed I'd be seeing the movie later that month.
I remember this past summer when I read the book for the first time. How André Aciman, despite writing about characters so far from me in terms of time and location, managed to perfectly depict the inner thoughts and feelings of Elio, a teen struggling to define their sexuality, a character who I related to on a scarily intricate level.
I remember how cmbyn stan twitter, something that was basically non-existent months ago, developed into a cult of rabid fans all hungry for content. I remember the 1:12 clip of Oliver touching Elio's shoulder that made us all go fucking insane.
I remember waiting for so long that my excitement began to die a little, only for it to resurface upon hearing Armie read the word "apricock."
I remember picturing every moment on the big screen, and thinking about the day where I would finally sit in a theatre and watch this story come to life.
All that being said, it's hard to put what I'm feeling right now into words.
Luca, James, Peter, and the entire crew behind the making of this movie worked together and turned this story into a living, breathing work of art. And I feel like I throw that term around a lot, but this movie was deadass art. From the carefully constructed color scheme to the detailed dialogue and how almost every integral moment was punctuated with music. How when watching you become immersed in the world that Luca created on-camera while simultaneously being able to see the safe environment that he fostered off-camera.
I loved how every moment between Timothée and Armie, every expression, every glance, every form of body movement was so rooted in human emotion and behavior. Watching them fully embody their characters, while working together to almost seamlessly to bring their relationship to life was mesmerizing. I was shook.
Every bit of it felt so real, so human, so alive. It was like there was no divide between the story on-screen and the theater I was sitting in.
The reason why I didn't give it five stars had all to do with my personal experience/preference. Despite the fact that almost every moment from the book was included (with the exception of Rome/San Clemente), I was still left wanting more. I think this mainly has to do with the fact that when you extract Elio's narration (a completely understandable / inevitable writing choice ) you are sort of left with the bones of the story and some things go unexplained. Don't get me wrong, the screenplay did a great job of filling in the blanks, but I feel like Elio's commentary is what primarily drives the story forward and makes it all the more poignant. Because there was no form of it, the plot progressed weirdly to me. That, combined with certain directorial choices (ie. not showing Elio and Oliver having sex for the first time), left me feeling a little empty.
But other than that, I appreciate how beautiful this film was and finally seeing every moment I had pictured in my head since the summer was thrilling. But I personally think the book resonated with me just a little more than the movie did (and that’s ok.)
However, I am not divorcing myself from this story by any means. Despite the progress we've made in queer cinema and the LGBT+ movement as a whole, we as a nation need stories like this now more than ever. The fact that something like this was made is a revelation in itself and other queer masterpieces (Brokeback Mountain, Carol, Moonlight, etc.) have paved the way for this movie to snatch best picture and get the recognition it deserves.
I said it last year with Moonlight and I'll say it again: if this doesn't win best picture I'm suing the Academy.