Nick has a deep interest in film and cinema, dreaming of one day being a successful film pundit.
Season of Love
Call me by Your Name is a romantic drama directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. The film takes place in the summer of 1980s Italy, and follows a young man named Elio (Chalamet), who lives in the Italian countryside with his parents. When an American academic named Oliver (Hammer) visits Elio’s home to see Elio’s professor father, an unlikely relationship begins to blossom between Elio and Oliver.
Casual movie fans will probably not be as familiar with the names associated with this film, with the obvious exception of Armie Hammer. But director Luca Guadagnino has already made some waves in his career, directing the Oscar-nominated I am Love and 2015’s A Bigger Splash. The same applies to lead actor Timothée Chalamet, whose credits include the TV series Homeland, a small role in Interstellar, and three other films in 2017. With strong Oscar buzz following the film since its premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, does the film live up to expectations, and could it possibly follow in the footsteps of 2016’s Moonlight?
Comparisons WILL be made between Call me by Your Name and Moonlight. But in reality, these are two very different films, in terms of style, setting, story, and structure. In all honesty, Call me by Your Name isn’t as strong and poignant a film as Moonlight, but it is certainly a well-made film which has an air of freedom and liberation imparted upon it by its setting and supporting characters. Its two leads are excellent, as Timmy Chalamet easily puts himself in contention for awards with a breakout performance. The film looks incredible, sounds incredible, and is directed very competently overall. My personal gripes for the film involves its character conflicts, but I would not be surprised if that was the vision the production team was going for in the first place. If you love to see images of the Italian countryside, authentic love stories and stories that are rarely told through the medium of film, Call me by Your Name calls for your attention.
A Real Peach of a Movie
What stands out from Call me by Your Name more than anything else is its beautiful setting. The quiet, sunny Italian countryside and its rural towns set the backdrop for a film about summer love. The children and teens living here spend their time swimming in the lake, playing ball, sunbathing and dancing at night. It’s not surprising that the place is a crucible for young love to cultivate. And coupled with its light and often dreamy soundtrack, watching the film is not unlike floating through a sensual dream chamber. The lazy serenity gives the film a calming vibe, the type of feeling you get when you wake up in the early hours of the morning and hear voices of your friends and loved ones talking in the distance.
Elio’s exploration into his sexuality and his struggles and confusions are allowed to roam free in such an environment, and it is this internal conflict that makes Elio such an engaging character. Timothée Chalamet’s shows a vulnerability that is astounding for someone of his young age, and his boldness and commitment to the role is worthy of all the praise he gets. Armie Hammer doesn’t have as much screen time, but also puts in his best performance since the Social Network. He shares many of Elio’s conflicts, but his maturity and nonchalant demeanour allows him to add a lot of nuance to his own brand of vulnerability. One fantastic supporting performance to note is Michael Stuhlbarg’s portrayal of Elio’s father, who first appears to be just another bubbly academic. But in one particularly honest conversation he has near the end of the film, we learn about just how complex his character has been throughout.
Call me by Your Name is as much a coming-of-age film as it is a romance. Elio’s biggest opponent is himself and he must choose how he responds to his own feelings, accepting and owning his thoughts and desires. When I sit and think about it, this film made me appreciate Moonlight so much more, because in that film, Chiron’s environment was so hostile to the point that it became his opponent too, and his ability to cope and rise up from those obstacles gave his character so much strength. One could say that Call me by Your Name is like Moonlight, but without the paralysing judgement from its community. Though I personally believe that fewer conflicts lessened the emotional impact of the film significantly, I can’t fault the film at all because it is the way the team (and book author) intended to tell this story. I do feel that the third act dragged a tad too long, particularly at a point where the film feels like it’s about to end, but actually doesn’t. Technically, there isn’t much to fault as well, other than a couple of camera movements that occured too quickly for my liking.
At the risk of sounding like an insensitive individual with no soul, I was not completely floored by Call me by Your Name despite how beautiful and well-made it is. It’s a great movie, but not one I would watch again anytime soon. The film is not for everyone, but I believe everyone should see this story. A story of growth, of understanding, and of course, of love. Will this film get into the Academy’s good books? Most probably is my guess. And it definitely deserves to too. But Moonlight, it is not. Nevertheless, it is a great project to have on the resumes of everyone involved, and I, personally, am excited to see what Timothée Chalamet is up to next.
Overall Rating: 7.0/10