Directed by Luca Guadagnino
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Review by Tom Cooney
In Call Me by Your Name, director Luca Guadagnino has crafted a film that sears its way into your memory and refuses to leave. It doesn’t do this by presenting the audience with a compelling moral conundrum or ending on a life-or-death cliff-hanger; it burrows its way in by simply illustrating one of the most profound romances cinema has seen in years. Based on André Aciman’s novel of the same name, the film follows the slow-burning relationship between 17-year-old Elio and the older visiting scholar Oliver, as he travels from the US to Elio’s Italian home in the summer of 1983. From the acting to the setting, the music to the dialogue, everything about Call Me by Your Name is sublime.
One of the most vital elements of any romance is whether those lead actors have the chemistry to execute the material that they’re working with, regardless of acting ability. In Call Me by Your Name, Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet certainly tick that box. Oliver and Elio’s relationship feels as organic as it possibly could. The seeds are sown throughout the first act, but the film takes its time to work up to their more obvious blossoming. Hammer delivers the best performance of his career as Oliver, miles ahead of his roles in blockbusters like The Lone Ranger (2013). Equally, or perhaps even more so, Chalamet astounds as Elio, proving that the 21-year-old has a very promising career ahead of him.
Beyond the lead roles, Michael Stuhlbarg impresses as Elio’s kind-hearted father – and it is with him that the film’s most emotionally resonant scene falls. Without giving too much away, one of the most refreshing aspects of Call Me by Your Name is that this is a film about gay love that isn’t constantly infused with the bullying and abuse that many similar projects choose to explore. Of course, these films are vital in exposing the unjust societal prejudice faced by the LGBT community; yet it is also important to show that not everyone – particularly not every father-figure – reacts in this way.
Another key role in Call Me by Your Name is the exquisite location of Northern Italy. Whether taking place in Lake Garda or just the grounds of Elio’s home, each scene is encompassed by an inescapable beauty, reflecting the relationship between the two characters perfectly. When coupled with the effortless blending of language throughout and Sufjan Stevens’ subtly powerful additions to an already-sensual score, you have yourself a film that is as mesmerising sonically as it is visually.
Ever since its debuting at various film festivals worldwide, Call Me by Your Name has stunned audiences. It will make you laugh and it will make you cry, because what emerges from Oliver and Elio’s summer romance is a message that will hit a nerve with almost anyone. Guadagnino has helmed a future classic – a film that I have no doubt audiences will revisit for years to come.