Director Luca Guadagnino has crafted something tantalizingly close to greatness, even as it weaves and darts its way through multiple ideas and even multiple genres. On the picturesque Italian island of Pantelleria, rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) recovers from throat surgery with her documentary filmmaker boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts)—only to have their vacation interrupted by a visit from Marianne’s ex-lover, record producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes), and the young daughter Harry only recently discovered he had, Penelope (Dakota Johnson). The four-sided roundelay of sexual tension makes for a great foundation, especially with Fiennes’ brilliant mile-a-minute patter working in counterpoint with the enforced silence of Swinton’s character, amplified by directing choices by Guadagnino that almost always feel invigorating and startling. And the character drama gets even more ambitious as the script sets their privileged troubles against background noise regarding doomed immigrant refugees, building to a fascinating final scene. Only the seemingly deliberate opacity of some of the characters—particularly Johnson’s Lolita-at-loose-ends—keeps this one from the kind of emotional punch that, perhaps after another viewing, seems primed to erupt.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Producer: Michael Costigan, Luca Guadagnino, Marco Morabito, David Kajganich, Olivier Courson and Ron Halpern
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Aurore Clément, Lily McMenamy, Elena Bucci and Corrado Guzzanti