Call Me by Your Name

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Call Me by Your Name

If you have any reservations about seeing Call Me by Your Name, I suggest that you erase them and go right now. How does director Luca Guadagnino get us to forget within minutes any reservations we might have about seeing a film about male homosexuality? He does that by giving us a work of art.

Guadagnino takes us to a 17th century Italian villa where we meet a gentle intellectual family. They have been described perfectly by the director as a family rooted in compassion, trust, and wisdom. Father Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of Greco-Roman culture, mother Annella (Amira Casar) is a translator, and both work at home. Son Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is a thinker who writes music while studying piano and musical history. He is also seventeen years old.

Whenever the father needs help with research he imports a young academic as his assistant. Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives for that temporary stay. Elio, who has had a lovely friendship with Marzia (an excellent Esther Garrel) while they explored their new interest in sex with trust, is stunned by his strong attraction to the visiting researcher. When Oliver understands what Elio wants, he is careful and protective of the boy’s age and innocence.

As they bicycle and walk and swim, we in the audience are soaking up the beauty of the Italian countryside. No paved roads or cars, just peace. By the time Elio and Oliver indulge themselves, we realize Elio’s parents are extending to their son a quiet understanding of where he is at the moment.

In other hands, this movie might have been fraught with disapproval, tempers, and drama. Mr. Guadagnino has quite literally created magical surroundings and wise, quiet people for an utterly natural coming-of-age story that catches much of what so many feel but don’t say.

Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar – as father and mother – are thoroughly winning as they set the tone of understanding. And a salute is due the designers of the peace of life in the surrounding Italian beauty that sets the tone.

Director Guadagnino avoids all the trappings of a predictably difficult subject and hands us instead quiet time to think of what is actually happening emotionally in all these good people. He never asks us to take sides. His final family scenes are written and acted with such dignity that most of us left the theater lost in quiet thought.

It is Timothee Chalamet who carries the main role so well that we are quietly on his team as he learns. Armie Hammer plays the older male with restraint and kindness until he understands exactly when it is okay to respond to his young partner. The final conversation between the parents we have come to like so much wraps the whole movie in a perspective that would probably have been impossible for other filmmakers. Their movie is on most lists of Top Ten Bests of the Year. The praise is deserved.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Call Me by Your Name
Word Count : 499
Rating : R
Running Time : 2:12
Date : 31 December 2017

 

This review was posted on December 29, 2017, in Drama, Romance.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi unfolds in two utterly different locations: an austere, treacherous island in the most remote part of the Galaxy and the vast, infinite sky that is the setting for war. The steep, rocky island establishes a mood of danger while Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to lure Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) away from his isolation (“It’s time for the Jedi to die”) and back to the life in the sky that he left.

That sky is alive with the turmoil of war that roars at the audience in superb designs of modern abstractions. The sound designers have created aerial turmoil, death, and danger in nearly constant fiery explosions that blow up all manner of futuristic space vehicles and men. The ability to create this spatial chaos has grown since the first Star Wars movie in 1977 to the point where we feel nailed to our seats as the screen morphs into fiery orange violence. We marvel at what artists in 2017 can do to bring a digital story alive.

The visuals are extraordinary, the acting excitingly appropriate. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) are terrific as the alienated brother and sister who are older and wiser than the younger warriors. Laura Dern endows Vice Admiral Holdo with the great dignity that comes from calm presence. Daisy Ridley turns Rey into a young woman who injects intelligence and power into her violent trade along with an underlying sense of fair play and kindness. She is enormously appealing.

Because the whole thing is imagined, writer/director Rian Johnson was free to create a marvelous mix of humans and animals who navigate the violent warfare. There are no rules in this world of the imagination and Johnson’s work is creative artistry.

But there is something else going on here. In this year’s other big success, Wonder Woman, the terrific actor Gal Gadot stamped the women’s movement with approval and encouragement and gave young girls the super hero they’ve never had. Ask any teenager; they love their new role model. After that unexpected twist, women began to get stronger roles in movies just as they have begun to assert themselves powerfully in real life.

Now, in this Star Wars episode, three good actors portray three strong women leaders. Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, and Laura Dern have created characters whose attitudes establish the tone of the story. This is another movie that has stepped into the tide with public recognition of the strength of women. Along with the new “Me Too” movement, this is what’s happening in the real world at a fast, long overdue, and exciting clip.

There is one possible cause for worry: the dark side of the explosive expansion of Star Wars style robotics. How soon will we see robotic tools of warfare and relationships erupt in our own life on earth? Perhaps next year’s Star Wars will give us some answers. Until then, they’ve given us the questions.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Word Count : 498
Running Time: 2:32
Rating : PG-13
Date : 24 December 2017