Fox Searchlight Pictures 2 hours 4 minutes R
This film is provocative from the get go. It opens on Tilda Swinton completely naked sunning herself next to a pool and with her sexy, young, boyfriend. They take advantage of the setting and the situation with intimacy. It’s a little jarring at first, but the relationships are what’s key to this film. The are on holiday at Pantelleria, a beautiful volcanic island between Sicily and Africa.
Tilda Swinton plays Marianne Lane, a rock star who has had surgery on her vocal chords and is ordered complete voice rest. Swinton was supposed to have plenty of dialogue but she suggested to Director Luca Guadagnino that she have as little as possible and it was a brave move. Because of this, it drew out, not only her performance, but those of the other actors.They’re enhanced by how she communicates, and how they all communicate with each other.
Lane and her young hunk, Paul, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl) seem very content to just be with each other. Schoenaerts explains that they are trying to bring their “minds, bodies and souls together” after strenuous touring to big crowds. (They actually borrowed the crowd for 15 minutes for the shot from a real concert in progress and got them to shout her character’s name!)
But when her old boyfriend, Harry, hunts her down and invites himself and his very sexy young daughter, Penelope, (played by Dakota Johnson), to join the couple, it draws out raw, old emotions as well as new ones. Johnson says working with this cast was exciting. How could it not be with Fiennes so uninhibited in this role!
Ralph Fiennes plays the boisterous and full of life Harry, Marianne’s old flame. You will see him bare naked a lot in scenes, front and back. But that’s who his character is! Fiennes says he took the part because it’s so different than anything he’s ever done and he looks like he’s enjoying every minute. He even does an outrageous dance through the house and then outside that took a lot of guts. At times he’s very funny and other times, you want to kill him. That’s the point. He’s loud to the point of being obnoxious but knows just when to pull it back so he’s kind of cute, loving and childlike.
Swinton says, “You can really love somebody and not be able to live a functioning life with them.” Harry doesn’t seem to be convinced they don’t have it any more. She’s a little confused as well. He obviously misses the life they had together, becoming more and more jealous of Paul.
Paul is getting also feeling the strain and isn’t buying his Harry’s act. Anger is building. Penelope seems to have an agenda of her own. It gets pretty scary and that’s what Director Luca Guadagnino was going for. He says the choices people make to fill desire can change their future. The director says he likes “to be taken by the unexpected and joy of life” but the outcome can be extreme and surprising. And in this film, it is.
Is this worth your bucks? This is a scenic thriller with a lot of detail. You might feel as though you’re on holiday with this foursome and want to do an intervention of some kind before something bad happens. It is a well crafted film that could have been a little shorter, but there are nuggets of brilliance in the acting. Swinton shows an incredible range of emotions, from soft and vulnerable to sexy and strong in a role where she has little dialogue but tons of face time. This film might not make a big splash at the box office, but the performances certainly make waves.