Tag Archives: Josh O'Connor

Triple Fault


by George Wolf

“This is about winning the points that matter.”

Honestly, the relationship triangle at work in Challengers could probably work outside of a tennis court, but director Luca Guadagnino does wonders with the sports angle for a completely engrossing drama of intimate competition.

Anchored around a three-set challenge match between Art Donaldson (West Side Story‘s Mike Faist) and Patrick Zweig (Josh O’Connor from The Crown), the film drifts back and forth in time as it immerses us in their series of entanglements with tennis phenom Tashi Duncan (Zendaya).

Through Grand Slam victories, unrealized potential and one career-ending injury, writer Justin Kuritzkes examines how three distinct personalities push and pull throughout their young lives, and their differing views on the points that matter.

Kuritzkes is married to filmmaker Celine Song, and his script often feels like the cynical cousin of her Oscar nominated triangle drama Past Lives.

Guadagnino’s camera is a sumptuous wonder, often following the three leads like an on-court volley, and then coming in close to focus on sweat, bare skin, and the constant draw of physical contact. The tennis action itself is also intense and effective, buoyed by blistering forehands barreling down our sightline and some frenzied POV shots during the final set.

Zendaya, Faist and O’Connor deftly handle the growth of their characters from fresh-faced teens to hardened adults. All three deliver terrific, well-defined performances, and Challengers quickly becomes a film to get lost in, where you’re happy to be hanging on every break point.