Call Me By Your Name (2017)
SHOULD I SEE IT?
One of the most discussed films of 2017, Call Me By Your Name is also one of the year's best films. A heartwrenching, but honest look at first love and heartbreak.
A film rich in powerful moments, Timothée Chalamet's performance is the breakout success of 2017. Michael Stuhlbarg delivers perhaps the movie scene of the year, and Armie Hammer has never been better. So much to celebrate here.
Gorgeously shot, and impeccably acted, this is a movie people will discuss long after the film's striking final end credits sequence comes to a close.
Let's just address the elephant in the room. Because Elio is 17 and strikes up a love affair with Oliver, who is 24, there are those who feel this film is immoral and disingenuous. It should be noted that the age of consent for these parties is more than satisfactory and not an issue. However, this remains something some people cannot get past.
At 132 minutes, Call Me By Your Name could maximize its minutes and definitely be shorter. The movie would be even better if it tightened up a first 40 minutes that can be hard to stay with.
Well this film is so much more than just the token "gay love story", Call Me By Your Name does deal with a same-sex relationship and, even in 2017 and 2018, this fact alone makes it something a fair number of folks sadly refuse to watch, accept, or tolerate.
The emotional and transcendent Call Me By Your Name documents a life-changing summer for Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old falling in love for the first time in 1983 Italy. Adapted from André Aciman’s best-selling novel by James Ivory, writing with rejuvenation at the age if 89, and directed by Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash), the film opens with Elio, preparing for the summer with his parents – Mr. and Mrs. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar) - when Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student joins the family for the summer, studying with Elio's father, a professor of archaeology.
Oliver's arrival ruffles up Elio's sensibilities and soon, the two strike up a friendship, with Elio making comments and initiating flirtations that catch him as much by surprise as they do Oliver.
Concurrently, Elio has a girlfriend of sorts, Marzia (Esther Garrel), who increasingly means less to him on an emotional level, the more he gets to spend time with Oliver. Nonetheless, Elio and Marzia have an intimate relationship, which becomes a way for Elio to boast in front of Oliver. Whether borne from a sense of jealousy, a growing sense of connection, or the direct ties Elio has to his host family, Oliver, unsure of what to do with his feelings, begins to interact with Elio less and less.
Guadagnino’s movie serves as the final component to the trilogy of films referenced above. Each film looks at desire in different forms and Call Me By Your Name takes a viewpoint from Elio attempting to figure out a rush of new desires and emotions he is feeling. As he begins to realize his feelings for not just Oliver, but for someone of the same gender, he recognizes that he is navigating through uneasy and seemingly unchartered waters.
The writing by James Ivory is thoughtful, tender, and frank, unafraid to leave no stone unturned. Much has been made of the changes Guadagnino made to Ivory’s screenplay, reducing some of the more provocative and carnal elements of Aciman’s source material. What Ivory captures and Guadagnino illustrates beautifully is a story of first love, the messy emotions caught up in that bundle of confusion, exhilaration, and excitement we all experience, as well as the heartbreak that can flood over us without a moment's notice or hesitation.
The film is a gorgeous travelogue of sorts of the Italian countryside, beautifully shot by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, and a treat to watch unfold before you. A song-driven score, comprised of music from the 1980s, and a mix-and-match of other compositions and new melodies written by Chicago singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, creates an emotional underpinning with which we can latch on our own reflections and feelings.
While Guadagnino’s film takes a little too long to hit its stride, once the movie begins to gain momentum about 35-40 minutes in, Call Me By Your Name is mesmerizing. While there are plenty of films that detail LGBTQ relationships, few are as curious and exploratory as this one. With the film told from Elio’s perspective, he is both immature and surprisingly confident. He catches Oliver off guard more than once and as he wins Oliver over, the chemistry generated between Chalamet and Hammer is tangible and real.
The acting here is stellar, with Chalamet delivering a star-making turn in the leading role. He is simply extraordinary to watch mature over the course of the film. His cool, unwavering confidence is so fragile, but he pushes forward to pursue something he cannot suppress. His boldness rocks Oliver’s world, but his sensitivity is perhaps what draws the two together. Chalamet recognizes the complexities of Elio and takes us on an unforgettable emotional journey. Watching Elio and Oliver tiptoe through their courtship is honest and pure in the awkward fumblings of a romantic connection taking hold.
Hammer, never better, finds Oliver as a man still learning about himself through the eyes of a fearless and brave suitor. In one of many moving moments, it is Oliver who lets his guard down first, uttering the phrase which occupies the film’s title.
The film unloads a final 20 minutes I was clearly not ready for. Stuhlbarg perhaps delivers the monologue of the year in a conversation with Elio that is full of envy, empathy, understanding, compassion, and ultimately acceptance. Then comes a phone call, a conversation, and a warm fireplace leading to one of the most memorable end credit sequences I have seen in years.
Call Me By Your Name is so much more than this year’s “gay love story.” The movie offers a story of discovery, fear, anxiety, and tenderness that is as brave as the characters forever impacted by their connections.
Through Guadagnino’s specific, unique, uncompromised vision and Chalamet’s remarkable depth as an actor, Call Me By Your Name calls to mind a moment everyone can relate to: That of first love and first heartbreak. And in this regard, we have a movie that speaks to everyone open-minded to accept it into their hearts.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Esther Garrel, Amira Casar.
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Written by: James Ivory
Adapted from the novel "Call Me By Your Name" by André Aciman.
Release Date: November 24, 2017
Sony Pictures Classics