RELEASED 2015/16 RUNTIME 124 MIN LANGUAGE ENGLISH DIRECTION LUCA GUADAGNINO SCREENPLAY DAVID KAJGANICH STARRING TILDA SWINTON, RALPH FIENNES, MATTHIAS SCHOENAERTS, DAKOTA JOHNSON, LILY McMENAMY, CORRADO GUZZANTI
Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton), a famous rock star, and her fiancé Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), a photographer, are on vacation in the Toscana in Italy where Marianne wants to recover from a surgery on her vocal cords. The vacation gets disrupted, when her old producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) come for a stay.
PLOT (NO SPOILERS)
I was really excited when I saw the trailer and the cast. The trailer didn’t really tell much besides having some kind of famous rock star in the center of it all and a great soundtrack. It had some flashy images and got me intrigued. It definitely teased the hell out of me.
Essentially, this is a sort of mystery drama with romantic elements. It’s hard to describe because for almost the entire run-time it didn’t really become apparent what the movie wants to bring across. Just until the middle of the 3rd act I kind of realized what it is all about – a rockstar torn between two worlds of excess and settling down, searching for the right path, when realizing her career can be over because of the surgery.
The film feels very European, and that’s not only due to the very romantic setting in the Toscana in Italy. Honestly, it won’t get more European than that. You almost feel like on vacation yourself. The scenery is beautiful and definitely gives this movie a certain style that fits the overall message very well of getting away from the madness of the rock lifestyle. In general, the visual style is one of the standout aspects.
But also the way it is filmed feels extremely European. Calm cinematography and having fun with the art of not confronting the viewer directly with what it wants to tell you. It dances around the subject and reveals in very quick and short flashbacks without saying much what the history with the characters is. It’s this subtlety which keeps you engaged in the loose plot. It’s like a puzzle. You discover little pieces scattered all over the place and you start putting them together in order to form a bigger picture. It’s a very interesting way of storytelling, but can get frustrating to general audiences who prefer a more straight forward approach.
After a while though the movie gets a little pretentious and some story sections and hints don’t add up anymore. Some of the plot points involving Paul and Penelope go nowhere and the movie never explains them. Especially Penelope as a character ends up pretty hollow and even after some thought I don’t know what the character was all about. The things she does in the movie make no sense to me. Maybe it’s just me.
I like Dakota’s performance of Penelope though. Very subdued and magnetic.
Generally all performances are great, but the standout for me is Ralph Fiennes. His performance is very intense in a kind way. He steals every moment of the film because his character essentially is very extroverted and attracts all the attention.
Tilda Swinton also does a stellar job and acts without really speaking because of the situation her character finds herself in. But you can read every emotion off her eyes, even when she wears sunglasses! Crazy!
Matthias Schoenaerts is very good, too. He is great at playing an introvert with a dark backstory. His character is the complete opposite of Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and brings in a nice contrast that also plays into the overall story.
If you like indie dramas you may want to check it out. It’s a pretty quiet movie on the one hand, but very loud on the other, which is due to some of the characters and amazing soundtrack. It’s a clever plot that sometimes tries to be to clever for its own good. But if you want to watch something that requires you to read between the lines then give it a try. It has a great setting and will stay with you for quite a while. It certainly does with me.