The Wessex Wire

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The Wessex Wire

The Wessex Wire

REVIEW: ‘Challengers’ causes a racquet

Challengers+redefines+movies+about+sports%2C+presenting+a+layered+depiction+of+tennis+as+a+metaphor+for+relationships%2C+weaving+a+beautiful+story+of+young+love+and+the+way+relationships+and+people+change.
Photo obtained from IMDB
“Challengers” redefines movies about sports, presenting a layered depiction of tennis as a metaphor for relationships, weaving a beautiful story of young love and the way relationships and people change.

Famed director Luca Guadagnino started summer early this year with the release of his new movie “Challengers” on April 22. Known for his emotional, provocative filmmaking, as in 2017’s romantic drama “Call Me by Your Name,” Guadagnino shifts his focus away from Italian villas, Berlin dance academies and Midwest cannibal road trips to the tennis court. The movie follows a complicated, decades-spanning love triangle between Tashi (Zendaya), Art (Mike Faist) and Patrick (Josh O’Connor). With the release of the first trailers, people were originally skeptical whether Guadagnino would be able to live up to his previous projects – but “Challengers” exceeded all expectations and seems destined to get the “Saltburn” treatment, sparking discussions and edits for the rest of the year. 

“Challengers” refuses to be confined or limited to a specific label. It throws a lot on the table, and all of it sticks. It’s a romance and a thrilling sports movie. It touches on themes of coming-of-age and friendships growing distant and also features a few spectacularly strange scenes that amplify the movie’s themes. 

The main reason the movie works so well is because of its consistency in framing and filming. Whether the film depicts an intense tennis match or an argument between a couple, the camera moves in unexpected kinetic ways, darting back and forth between the characters to keep the momentum. Especially when filming tennis matches, the camera flies across the net as if it were the tennis ball, or puts the viewer in the perspective of one of the players in a couple of first-person sequences reminiscent of video games. The filming  makes the movie constantly feel entertaining even when off the court. 

Set to a pulsing score of club music, the movie builds tension throughout the match and the relationship as we watch the characters’ connection change over the years. Occasionally a recognizable song by Nelly or Blood Orange adds even more emotional depth to a movie already full of it. 

The movie is so packed with details that even the most simple details are calculated and well-thought out. Excessive brand logos and advertisements mimic real tennis which is based largely on brand deals and ads. The Cartier Trinity necklace Tashi wears throughout the movie is made of three metals, symbolizing the three people in the relationship. Jonathan Anderson, costume designer and creative director of the Spanish fashion house LOEWE, uses clothing to represent their relationship, switching certain pieces between the three to show their connection to each other. 

Guadagnino’s “Challengers” redefines movies about sports, presenting a layered depiction of tennis as a metaphor for relationships, weaving a beautiful story of young love and the way relationships and people change. With standout performances from its leads and a captivating visual style, “Challengers” is guaranteed to catch a few wins this awards season.

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