It may sound like overpraise due to all the cinematic narratives that have come before it, but Call Me By Your Name is a transcendent tale that, along with receiving its share of Oscar nominations, will be remembered for years to come. Based on André Aciman’s novel, the feature hits on all creative cylinders and offers a fitting ending to director Luca Guadagnino’s “Desire” trilogy (I Am Love and A Bigger Splash were the previous installments).
It’s 1983 somewhere in an Italian countryside, and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is a 17-year-old who spends his days transcribing and playing music at his parent’s (Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar) villa. When Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives at the domicile to spend the summer interning for Elio’s father (who’s a professor), the connection is instant. What begins as an innocent handshake gradually develops into something deeper, as the pair hover each other like satellites, waiting and wondering if they will ever make that highly anticipated love connection.
Credit goes to Guadagnino for letting his story breathe (the narrative runs for 132 minutes), and whatever romance ensues comes about in an organic (and thus seductive) fashion. Both Elio and Oliver are confident in their own respective charms (both actually carry on flings with neighborhood girls), but initially their attempts to connect with one another has its share of underlying tension.
The chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer is electric, but that’s not the only selling point behind the story. Stuhlbarg delivers a monologue that, although it seems a bit out of place amidst the film’s relative lack of wordy exposition, will possibly leave a healthy share of moviegoers teary-eyed.
Call Me By Your Name’s thematic heart and soul lies in its encouragement for both these lovers to push forth and explore their romance rather than regress in complacency. An excellent choice of music (Maurice Ravel, Surfjan Stevens, Psychedelic Furs and John Adams) weave in and out of the sensually languorous and beautifully shot compositions (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is the DP) to support the performances, with Guadagnino successfully blending all of these elements into an ultimately unforgettable experience.
The film was shot in Crema, where Guadagnino calls home, and this intimate connection gives it a loving personal touch. It’s also great to hear that a sequel for Call Me By Your Name is in the works, with Esther Garrel, who also delivers a nuanced performance as Elio’s heartbroken girlfriend, possibly having a deeper role in the sequel.
For now, let us at least enjoy Call Me By Your Name (the sequel won’t be out until 2020) and considering the true to life beauty within this tale, that’s more than enough.
Call Me By Your Name is now playing in select theaters.