Rock icon Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is mutely relaxing on a sunny coastal retreat with her boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) after throat surgery when their lazing around is harshly interrupted by the arrival of her high energy ex Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and a young lady who he claims is his daughter Penelope (Dakota Fanning).
Director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) lets the quartet simmer away as Harry tries to convince Marianne that what they have can never be denied – despite her constant croaked denials – while Paul finds his carefully guarded equilibrium (he’s a recovering alcoholic) sorely tested by Penelope’s flirting. The story of how the quartet slowly circle each other is a slow burn despite Harry’s manic antics – Fiennes’ rapid patter, daggy dancing and frequent nudity keep all eyes on him in a performance that’s fun for us and a nightmare for those around him – and a third act twist sadly shuts down plot options rather than bringing things to a head. The near-silent Swinton puts pages of pain into her performance, a still, wire-taut act that’s the polar opposite to Fiennes, highlighting how Marianne is now miles away from Harry no matter what he thinks; set against that duo’s towering work here, everything and everyone else fades away.
Reviewed by Anthony Morris