Jamaal’s review published on Letterboxd:
First time on the big screen since Berlinale more than a year ago and it’s only getting better the closer you look. The slow pan in during Michael Stuhlbarg‘s dialogue that accompanies the words „nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot“ is one of the highpoints of cinema to me, every element of filmmaking comes together in an emotional crescendo that builds and builds until it’s almost a purge of the soul.
RE: Age Difference: [spoilers]
I didn’t really want to come back to this again, but I conciously tried to confront myself with that topic, since I do think it’s important to know what kind of representation we get and I do like to question everything.
I‘ve been there as the younger counterpart, I know it can be tricky and sometimes immensely abusive, I do not blame anyone who has been confronted with these kinds of relationships too, and made bad experiences as I did too, to be uncomfortable with it. Truly not at all. Its your right to dislike this film and you shouldn’t be told by anyone that you are wrong.
But I don’t think it’s wrong to thematize it, it happens, why pretend it doesn’t? The fact that this relationship is portrayed in a positive light is bound to many interior and exterior aspects of the characters and the narrative, it’s obviously not generalizing - it’s very clear about consent and the psychology behind people of a different age having a relationship. Their perception is graspably different. It’s also a temporary relationship that creates a very different setup in comparison to a relationship that is bound to longtime contact/confrontation, which could lead to certain dependencies, that might strengthen patterns of emotional manipulation and abuse. There is a genuine consensual bond inbetween these characters during that period of time and no real factors of pressure that could create toxicity. Surely huge differences in that area of age remain something to be sensitive about, I’m the last to speak against that, since abuse of inexperience and power are things that happen way too often because of patriarchial dynamics, and I can absolutely speak from experience here.
But in the vacuum of this summer, this is a story about two people who become one, letting go of everything outside of them - for better or worse for their surroundings, the film never pretends that this love is something that brings no pain to anyone, in the contrary, suffering and hurting each other is a crucial part of the narrative - and eternally becoming a part of each other, even when physically absent. As Mr. Perlman says, they are both good and legitimately respect each other. I think that is encapsulated best after the peach scene - Elio breaks down and Oliver immediately stops his playful mocking, realizing that he went too far. He isn’t disregarding Elio‘s emotions for his own amusement and pleasure, since there is a genuine appreciation he has for him. While they toy with each other, they do have a sense of the others emotional state - they stay within the borders of mutual respect. And that’s why this works.