Vincent Bec’s review published on Letterboxd:
Welp this film sure did take me through a rollercoaster of emotions, but my final thoughts can be summed up in two words: fucking bullshit.
I'll expand on my thoughts by breaking the movie down into 3 parts, because, as I mentioned, my thoughts and feelings changed drastically throughout the film.
Part 1 (beginning until the first kiss):
I wasn't sure I would like this film when I went to see it, but I didn't expect to hate it as much as I did. In the beginning I was shocked by how bored I felt. Even more shocking was how absolutely removed I felt from the characters and story. Never would I guess that I, a hopeless romantic, bisexual who falls in love constantly and who semi recently had a crush on someone significantly older than me, could find a romantic, gay coming of age story completely un-relatable.
I also kept wondering what grad student would really go out of their way to hang out with 17 year olds like that? Not any grad student I know. (I’m pointing out grad students more as an age indicator not necessarily an education level). I’m nice to younger people, but actively dragging a younger person along with me places even after they said they weren’t feeling it? It’s weird fam, don’t pretend like it’s not.
Part 2 (first kiss until the day after they have sex for the first time:)
I felt so uncomfortable with seeing the intimacy between someone who looks so old and someone who looks so young, but at the same time my little queer heart soared at every touch. This part of the movie (so like 15 minutes total?) was the only part that felt like a success for me. But even with my hopeless romantic nature clouding my judgement I still felt so unsettled by their relationship.
Part 3 (day after sleeping together til end):
This is when I start to get mad. Mad at the movie and mad at everyone who liked the movie if I’m being honest. I started thinking of all the people in their 20s who went after me when I was a high schooler. How I thought my 23 year old boyfriend loved me when really he just wanted to use me. How my gay best friend in high school was raped repeatedly by his first boyfriend (who was older) but wouldn't leave because he didn't have any other connection to the lgbt community (I wasn't out then). People in their 20s (or older) who go after high schoolers are not in love with them. Period. They are using them for something, subconsciously or not. They are using them for sex, they are using them for validation, they are using them for excitement, they are using them to feel young again, they are using them.
Even worse was that the movie was so aware of the insidious nature of Oliver's relationship to Elio yet it praises it! Oliver even has a line where he admits to his grooming of Elio- how in the beginning he touches Elio to see how he would react. You can't even fucking pretend that Oliver accidentally fell in love with someone too young after getting to know him over time because he admitted to wanting, AND TESTING, Elio from the very beginning. All those times he pushed Elio to hang out with him, especially after Elio said he didn't feeling like coming along... predatory as fuck when you add this context.
Also their relationship was so empty, like except for intimacy in less than a hand full of scenes (the nose bleed/ foot rubbing scene was good), there was no reason to believe they even had a good friendship, much less the true, pure love this movie is trying to shove down your fucking throat.
The last movie I criticized for romanticizing adults taking advantage of kids was The Diary of a Teenage Girl, at least that film showed some negative effects of these kind of relationships. I just want to say the biggest fuck you I possibly can to the fact that this movie blamed the pain of Oliver and Elio's relationship entirely on homophobia while completely ignoring age.
(To be clear I don’t have a problem with all age gaps. Just ones that involve teenagers and younger)