IN CALL Me by Your Name, hormone-driven 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) embarks on a gay romance with 24-year-old US scholar Oliver (Arnie Hammer) who is staying in his family’s villa in Northern Italy in 1983.
That bald synopsis might sound as if the narrative arc of director Luca Guadagnino’s drama could be that of a mundane gay porn movie.
But, thanks to magnificent work on both sides of the camera, it emerges as a deeply moving, humane and emotionally credible romantic drama whose gay element is central to the story and not simply added for audience titillation.
The story is long in the telling but doesn’t feel it, with acute direction unostentatiously advancing the narrative in a sensitive, character-driven screenplay based on Andre Aciman’s best-selling novel.
And aptly chosen locations and perfect performances combine to create an unexpected contemporary masterwork.
Hammer, who played Hoover’s lover in 2011’s J Edgar, surprises with an unexpectedly perceptive performance while Michael Stuhlbarg is superb as Elio’s academic father who, facing his son’s confession, tells him: “I don’t want you to regret anything,” without revealing his own emotional back story.
Chalamet — who learned to speak Italian and play piano and guitar for his role — is truly magnificent, creating a credible and moving character who, like the film, is unlikely to be forgotten.
Directed by Andy Serkis
SURPRISINGLY, Andy Serkis’s directorial debut isn’t his long-awaited live action version of The Jungle Book but an inspirational true story about love, endurance and the fight for disabled rights.
It’s based on the real-life tale of film producer Jonathan Cavendish’s parents and how his father Robin (Andrew Garfield), left paralysed from the neck down by polio while in Kenya in the late 1950s and dependent on a respirator to breathe, refused to live the rest of his life in a hospital bed.
Returning to Britain with the help of his young wife Diana (Claire Foy), against all medical advice he leaves hospital and moves around in a remarkable wheelchair with a respirator attached, designed by his friend Professor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville).
He then embarks on a trailblazing campaign to ensure other severely disabled people benefit from the pioneering mobility that he has.
The panoramic landscapes are stunning and there are superlative performances by Garfield and Foy, with the latter memorably capturing the stress that Diana faces in having to cope with caring for her husband and newborn baby, pressures which few of us can comprehend.
Infused with humour, it’s a powerful drama and love story which is both heartbreaking and uplifting
Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami (15)
Directed by Sophie Fiennes
CELEBRATED singer-performer, occasional actor and androgynous cultural icon, Jamaican-born Grace Jones fascinates in this spellbinding cinematic trek thought her public and private lives over several years by British film-maker Sophie Fiennes.
Fiennes melds footage of Jones in full-blown performance and captivating real-life sequences filmed in Jamaica and Paris where we meet her family, her former partner and their son and learn something of the early influences that catalysed her fame, first as model, then singer, film star (Conan The Barbarian, A View to A Kill) and international icon.
The content, seemingly, is carefully controlled from both sides of the camera to ensure that her carefully created public and private images remain intact.
Jones devotees won’t care a jot about that.
Directed by Richard Parry
WITH jaw-dropping footage of real-life jumps in which people dive off cliffs, mountains and other vertigo-inducing action and featuring real-life Base jumpers, this film disconcertingly blurs the lines between fact and fiction.
It stars world-class wing-suit pilot and athlete, the 31-year-old Alexander Polli, who sadly died last year Base jumping.
He plays, JC a global playboy and jumper who films every flight and every minute of his life.
When his best friend Chico (real-life skydiver and Base jumper Carlos Pedro Briceno) is killed during one of their thrill-seeking adventures JC, riddled with guilt, can’t bring himself to admit to Chico’s girlfriend Ash (Julie Dray) that he was with him when he died.
The extraordinary montages of the pair skydiving and Base jumping are stunning yet heart-stopping to watch.
As a fictional documentary, this has a fascinating premise but I’m none the wiser as to why anyone would risk their life time and time again hurling themselves off the edge.
The Shining (15)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
CRITICS should avoid many things, one of them being that legendary auteurs might suffer even a minor flaw.
But I’ll stick my neck out.
Could Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, some five years in the making, now seem less of a landmark?
Recently The Tower flopped, proving that even a Stephen King original can be mangled by film-makers. And, watching the Shining again, it seems director Kubrick sadly failed to rise to the challenge of matching King’s supernatural story.
An overlong, sometimes slack screenplay sees writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) going homicidally crazy and terrorising his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) when he becomes caretaker of a haunted hotel.
The rest is suitably grisly but, despite Nicholson’s notable scenery-chewing and atmospheric cinematography, it now feels overdone.
It certainly doesn’t shine quite so brightly as when it was first released.