Homestead High School's student newspaper

The Epitaph

Homestead High School's student newspaper

The Epitaph

Homestead High School's student newspaper

The Epitaph

‘Challengers’ depicts love and tennis like never before

I have never been to a professional tennis match, but if I did, I can only imagine it would feel the same as watching Luca Guadagnino’s “Challengers.” From visually interesting camera angles to an unapologetically techno soundtrack, “Challengers” allows viewers to experience the highs and lows of a sports match in a uniquely emotional and complex way.

Tashi creates animosity in Patrick and Art’s friendship, yet the specific physical acting choices allow the reader to see the underlying love the two still have for each other. (Photo from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

“Challengers” follows the years-long relationships between Tashi Duncan, played by Zendaya, Patrick Zweig, played by Josh O’Connor and Art Donaldson, played by Mike Faist. Patrick and Art are life-long best friends who meet tennis starlet Tashi as teenagers and instantly become infatuated with her.

On the surface, the premise of the film is quite simple: a tennis love triangle. However, what elevates this movie beyond its tropes are its unique directorial choices—more specifically, the choices to include an EDM soundtrack and to frame the movie as a tennis match.

Every intense scene is accompanied by an equally electrifying techno song. This seems out of place for a movie labeled as “romance,” but these songs perfectly mirror the feeling of a live sports game by emulating consistency and focus. 

As an athlete, I am familiar with the heated and raw emotions felt during a game. The electro soundtrack not only conveys these feelings during game sequences, but also during scenes that are unrelated to tennis. A notable example is a romantic scene in which Patrick and Art realize they both want Tashi. The complementing EDM music implies competition between the two friends and adds to the depth of their relationship.  

Additionally, the framing of the movie as a 5-set tennis match contributes to the feeling of watching a live sporting event. In the present, Art is playing a match against Patrick. In between game sequences, there are time jumps which unfold the story behind the trio. As Patrick or Art wins a set of the present-day match, they also “win” in their relationship with Tashi during an event in the past. This attention to detail makes me appreciate the way the plot is presented just as much as the plot itself. 

Prior to seeing “Challengers,” I did not think a tennis match could be so dramatic, but the movie’s cinematography makes each rally a battle of wits and a dance around the truth. In the scenes depicting Patrick and Art’s present day match, the viewer’s perspective changes from the ball’s, to Tashi’s, to the view of each player and more. One moment, the viewer is granted a bird’s eye view of the court, and the next, they can see the sweat dripping down a player’s face. This constant change in perspective kept me on the edge of my seat. I was not merely spectating a tennis match; I was feeling every little factor that builds up before hitting the ball. 

In the film, there are many long moments without dialogue, but I was rarely left unsatisfied or confused because the acting conveyed everything I needed to know. With essentially only three characters, the entire movie relies on the performances of Zendaya, O’Connor and Faist, and they did not disappoint. 

In particular, I felt O’Connor and Faist’s performances were especially impressive. Each actor’s talent truly shines through in their physical acting. Whether in the midst of a rally or a coy conversation, the body language of each actor spoke more than their words. 

A strong example of this is in the last 15 minutes of the film, when not a word is spoken, but the entire plot is drawn together to a conclusion. Just as an athlete’s body is their tool, the actors’ non-verbal acting is what develops the relationships across the film.  

During a time when it feels like movies often do too much, this film impressed me not for its romance or fancy effects, but for its exceptional execution. This movie was refreshing and an important reminder that a film does not need to be extravagant to be good. 

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About the Contributor
Nicole Kim
Nicole Kim, Editor-in-Chief
Nicole is currently a senior and is excited to serve as an Editor-in-Chief this school year. Having been on The Epitaph for three years, Nicole loves the collaborative environment and the opportunity to tell important stories. Outside of the paper, Nicole is a captain of the varsity water polo team and a member of FBLA. When not struggling to finish homework, Nicole loves to try new foods, go for a swim, read and spend time with friends.

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