First great film I’ve seen in 2018, Call Me By Your Name is a moving coming-of-age tale, a beautiful romance and a love letter to the warm, sensuous, sun-kissed charms of Northern Italy. I’m sure I say this every time, but my heart skips a beat whenever I see lush summery European landscape onscreen, and in Luca Guadagnino’s film it’s a perfect backdrop for the gently unfolding, finely observed, slow-burn story of a vibrant, life-changing first love that cannot last.
I watched this film once 20 years ago, after it swept the 1997 Academy Awards and famously became the object of hatred for Elaine from Seinfeld:
I didn’t share Elaine’s visceral loathing for the movie, but I remember feeling rather underwhelmed and wondering why on earth this film was praised so much. Then recently I found a DVD of The English Patient in Mum’s collection (she’s one of the many people who loved the movie), and thought I’d give it a second chance.
The Lobster made me think of Ray Bradbury’s sci-fi short stories I read as a teenager, where some “what if” premise would be taken to an absurd extreme, except that this movie does it with an extra helping of bonkers. If you’re a fan of out-there scenarios, the summary should grab you instantly. Here goes: in the dystopian world of The Lobster, it’s illegal to be single. If you’re divorced, widowed or just unattached, you get sent to a high-security hotel in the countryside, where you have 45 days to find a new partner among the fellow singles. Those who fail to pair up are then turned into an animal of their choice and remain that way for the rest of their lives. David (Colin Farrell), the main hero of the film, tells the manager of the hotel that he’d like to cast his lot with the crustaceans, and be turned into a lobster. Lobsters, he says, can live for hundred years, and he quite enjoys swimming.
This movie copped a massive backlash upon its release last year, and in all honesty it was practically asking for it, with its grossly misleading trailers and advertising which treated its premise as a twist and in the end made some viewers feel like they received a pretty glittery gift box with a dead puppy inside.
Here’s what the bullshit summary on my DVD rental reads like:
Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt are two passengers onboard a spaceship transporting them to a new life on another planet. The trip takes a deadly turn when their hibernation pods mysteriously wake them 90 years before they reach their destination. As Jim and Aurora try to unravel the mystery behind the malfunction, they begin to fall for each other, unable to deny their intense attraction… only to be threatened by the imminent collapse of the ship and the discovery of the truth behind why they woke up.
Here’s what actually happens in the film (spoilers ahead):
It’s been forever since I read Bram Stoker’s classic gothic horror novel, but I can’t really remember Dracula giving the female heroine her sexual awakening. Nevermind, I do have a soft spot for the Beauty and the Beast trope and Gary Oldman as the monstrous yet tragic Dracula is captivating and sensual… well at least when he’s in his young human Gary Oldman form with the fabulous long hair. Not so much when he’s hanging from a ceiling as a hideous human-sized bat.
Romance film with a difference. Emilia Clarke of the Game of Thrones fame is Lou, a quirky, adorably klutzy girl who is fond of bright colours and just lost her job. Desperate for work, she is hired as a caregiver of Will, an impossibly handsome and wealthy young man who became a quadriplegic after an accident two years ago. Will has a capable Aussie physical therapist (played by Steve Peacocke from Home and Away of all people) looking after him so Lou’s role is more that of a companion, and the true reason she was hired by Will’s mother is revealed later in the film. At first Will treats Lou’s wacky upbeat ways with coldness and disdain, but this is a romantic drama so the usual developments happen.
I don’t have much use for Valentine’s Day, but it’s as good an excuse as any for more listmaking… so here are my personal favourite celluloid love stories and couples.
Daniel Craig and Eva Green – Casino Royale
Casino Royale is my favourite Bond film and while it’s great from the beginning, it really takes off when Eva Green’s exotic, mysterious Vesper Lynd enters the stage and trades barbs with Bond in the train scene which could have come from a classic 40s screwball movie. But their relationship wasn’t all witty banter and sexual undercurrents; Craig’s raw, unformed Bond was still open to love and his tragic romance with Vesper was genuinely emotional, though I do have to admit that the last 20 minutes of the film don’t quite work.