I guess it's not surprising that this film received mixed reviews. I knew when I saw it that it would not be for everyone. I have to say though that I really loved this film and would gladly see it again, particularly to share it with someone I care for.
I think you have to just sit back, relax and let this film wash over you. The best way for me to describe it is as a beautiful poem about love, particularly young love. It conveys all the thrill and excitement, the confusion and pain, the jealousy and longing...really all the emotions one experiences from first love. Rather than words, however, this poem is composed of pictures and music and ambient sound. Like a poem it isn't always straightforward, you don't always understand every moment, but the feelings that it evokes are strong and genuine, and it captures universals in a way that a more specific, narrative film never could.
The director has said that the reason there is so little dialogue is that the moments he chose to capture were the ones between the dialogue; before the characters felt the need to speak, and after they had said all there was to say. What's amazing is how illuminating those moments are when one chooses to pay attention to them.
In the context of this film I'm not sure what the phrase "gratuitous male nudity" means. Although I know it never happens in the U.S., in other countries people get naked. It's part of life. It's certainly part of the relationship that this film is all about, and to show it, unceremoniously, as part of the fabric of a life and a relationship can hardly be described as "gratuitous".
I guess the best compliment I can pay this film is to say that I am still thinking and talking about it, weeks after seeing it. The camera work, the composition, the use of sound and music, and the contribution of the young stars, all contribute to the film's success. If you enjoy film-making as an art form, I'd highly recommend you seek out this film.
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