Review by Rich Cline | 4.5/5   MUST must see SEE

dir Luca Guadagnino
scr Justin Kuritzkes
prd Zendaya, Amy Pascal, Luca Guadagnino, Rachel O'Connor
with Zendaya, Josh O'Connor, Mike Faist, Darnell Appling, Nada Despotovich, Naheem Garcia, AJ Lister, Hailey Gates, Jake Jensen, Connor Aulson, Bryan Doo, Kevin Collins
release US/UK 26.Apr.24
24/US MGM 2h11

zendaya oconnor faist

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o'connor, faist and zendaya
A sports movie that's not about sports, this fiendishly clever film ricochets back and forth in time to forensically unpick the interrelationships between three people. With Justin Kuritzkes' smart, funny script, and director Luca Guadagnino hones in on subtext, allowing the actors to deliver riveting performances that are funny, engaging and sometimes almost outrageously sexy. It's the kind of movie so perfectly structured that it takes the breath away.
As the sparky Patrick (O'Connor) and focussed Art (Faist) face off in the final of a challenger tennis tournament, Patrick is trying to reignite his floundering career while Art seeks a boost as a top-tier player. They are also remembering 13 years ago, as junior doubles champs both falling for rising superstar Tashi (Zendaya), who initially comments that she doesn't want to be the homewrecker in their clearly very close friendship. Tashi attends Stanford with Art, so they become a couple, and after she's injured she becomes his coach. But Patrick remains in the background.
Connections between them shift over the years, captured by Guadagnino with brilliantly kinetic camerawork and editing that sees from all perspectives (including the tennis ball's). So the film looks amazing, accompanied by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' energising score. This makes the personal interaction even more thrilling than the visceral tennis matches. While the time shifting sometimes feels a bit overworked, it also has an intentionality that builds powerful momentum.

The actors skilfully bring the audience into their souls. Tiny details abound as these three look at and touch each other, suggesting desire, control and unspoken (perhaps unconscious) yearning. Each has a level of success the other can't attain, creating a delicate balance between them. Zendaya is excellent as Tashi, keeping her heavy thoughts inside while provoking both men with her words. Faist has the more sympathetic role as the open-hearted but darkly thoughtful Art, while O'Connor shines as the more expressive, flirtatious Patrick.

It's rare for a film to offer such a complex take on three intertwined relationships, providing the most salient details in between the lines. So the way Tashi's head turns back and forth (or not) during the final is as scintillating as the sweat pouring off Patrick and Art during a match that is distinctly momentous for each of them. The film bracingly puts us right in the epicentre of these three intensely sympathetic characters, challenging us to take side while continually forcing us to make errors in judgment. This is exhilarating cinema.

cert 15 themes, language, nudity 16.Apr.24

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© 2024 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall