There was little reason to have hope for mainstream moviemaking (or, hell, much of anything) at the beginning of this year, but in spite of all reasonable expectations, 2017 was one of the best in recent memory. The fall was filled with breezy and biting prestige pictures like Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird; the summer was full of unexpectedly intelligent franchise pictures like War for the Planet of the Apes and Atomic Blonde; and throughout the year, we saw little miracles like Get Out, Okja, and The Big Sick. These were the ten films I valued highest, when the time came to make this list; with another week or month to reflect, they could’ve been differently ordered, or ten other films altogether. That’s the kind of year this was.
Luca Guadagnino’s movies (which also include I Am Love and A Bigger Splash) are sun-soaked treats, in which beautiful people while away their days swimming and eating and fucking; you just want to walk into the screen, Purple Rose of Cairo-style, and hang out there. But they’re never merely about sensuous pleasures, a fact that holds firm in his latest – an adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel, in which a 17-year-old son of an American professor experiences first resentment, then lust, then love for a visiting grad student. Guadagnino beautifully captures the potent mix of desire and idealism that defines such an affair; he also, unexpectedly, portrays the heartache at such a relationship’s end with both maturity and sensitivity. It’s rare to find a film that’s both a sexy frolic and a melancholy weeper, but we have one here, so let’s treasure it.