Like a holiday with your relatives when you’d rather be with your friends, this Italian set drama is unwanted and boring. It starts with some initial promise but winds down to a damp squib of a conclusion that leaves you with only pretty stars and prettier locations.
Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is a well-known glam musician on voice rest, living in Pantelleria with her partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), when they find out musical connection and former Lane flame Harry (Ralph Fiennes) is coming to visit with the surprise addition of his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson).
The opening with it’s very short burst of the Marianne character is funky and exciting, giving us enough to know who she was and/or is. Then we see sunny shots of an Italian island and flesh from openly passionate present day Marianne and boyfriend Paul. It’s enough to grasp a sense of who she and he is but only a tid-bit to entice us into the world of the film, sadly that’s the only engaging factor as after…well perhaps half an hour, the film begins losing any appeal and I couldn’t care less for the characters or story developments.
Luca Guadagnino reunites with Swinton after the 2009 movie ‘I Am Love’, and though Swinton is an undeniable muse and fascinating talent, this movie is a meandering strange look into an empty vessel. The directing is smooth and edgy at times what with the whip pans or the decision to jolt zoom into objects but aside from these sparse stylistic choices this movie suffers from a zzz inducing quality. It’s the first film I’ve seen in the comfortable and quaint Picturehouse cinema of Norwich that didn’t embrace me or lose me into the film at any point. I felt like I was in that unusually warm screen the entire time, wishing I was in Italy or at home not watching the slow plot unfold.
Even Yorick Le Saux’s beautiful European cinematography couldn’t stir me from the unyielding tiredness I had with this film. I’m not being that harsh either, it’s just a movie that suffers with lengthy nothingness and by the arrival of the third act where you’d hope for more of a thrilling touch in the suspense of this detective mystery…there’s none whatsoever. It’s also blisteringly predictable in what the characters are going to do and I made sure I hadn’t watched a trailer or read up on the film beforehand, so being boring and unsurprising really made me get on the wrong side of this supposedly labelled erotic thriller.
Tilda Swinton draws a short straw in being a great and striking cinematic presence but playing a dreary glam rock-star who can’t even speak for the majority of the narrative. She still presents herself well and has a magnetic physicality but it’s not the performance you’d expect. Matthias Schoenaerts has the most human qualities and plays the damaged former rehab tainted soul with enough charisma to get by. Dakota Johnson at least captivates with more sexuality and believability than as her turn playing Anastasia Steele, but she’s not wholly likeable, she’s distant as a character and the whole reveal of who Penelope is comes at such a late stage it begs belief to why they even bothered. Ralph Fiennes is the only saving grace I can find with this movie. He musters up a fantastically humorous dose of energy as the irritatingly talkative and lively Harry. The way he rocks out to a Rolling Stones track made me smile and gives most of the points to the film.
After a promise of something disrupting and possibly tense, the film fizzles into nothing all the way through when it could have been much more. Apart from Fiennes and a sun-baked backdrop, this film appears like a pointless flick through your relative’s dismal holiday photo album.