A tender, touching, and painfully beautiful love story, Call Me By Your Name will steal your heart and wreck your emotions.
One of the most anticipated films of the festival, Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to 2015’s A Bigger Splash is an endlessly charming, heart-stoppingly tender, and beautifully executed love story.
The story focuses on Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a teenage boy living in a beautiful quiet corner of northern Italy with his parents, whose life is drastically changed by the arrival of a handsome American student Oliver (Armie Hammer), who has come to study and live with the family for the summer. What follows is a beautiful, blossoming summer romance which Guadagnino deliberately paces so that the confines of the film’s runtime never feels compromised by the need to spend time building this relationship from the ground up.
Whilst the slow-burn might frustrate some, it is an absolute necessity, and frankly watching these characters growing closer and closer together is nothing short of wonderful. The gorgeous, hazy sun-drenched visuals are picture perfect, and sublimely suit the “lazy summer days” vibe which is so evident throughout.
Aside from the central relationship, there is such a wonderful dynamic shared between all the characters, and the family in particular. Multi-lingual, very academic, and creatively gifted, the sense of them being a real unit is so expertly conveyed by the actors you’d find it hard to believe they weren’t a real family. The idyllic upbringing of Elio emphasises the freedom his parents allow him to have; speaking openly about sex, and encouraging him constantly in his creative talents. It is almost the perfect counterpoint to 2016’s Moonlight, which was frequently oppressive and difficult for the character to feel any sense of freedom, let alone the freedom to explore, and act upon his own sexuality. There is an exchange near the end of the film between Elio and his father (Michael Stuhlbarg) which is not only one of the most beautiful scenes in any film of this year, but one of the best father and son exchanges in any movie. For those who may have struggled with their sexuality, it will particularly resonate, but beyond that, it is such a perfect example of unconditional parental love and acceptance, that it is impossible for it not to resonate with everyone.
The chemistry and relationship between Elio and Oliver is positively electric, and the initial slow burn of the film means the explosion of passion feels earned, considered and completely necessary. Whilst it might initially seem like boyhood infatuation, there is also the sense that Oliver feels so inexplicably drawn to Elio; that the two of them coming together in the way that they do seems like destiny, despite it seeming to defy all the odds initially.
With an eclectic soundtrack of alternative 80s music being one of the only ties to that era, there is a strangely timeless quality about this film; the soundtrack managing to be completely integral to the plot and simultaneously current. The beautiful tracks from Sufjan Stevens in particular will certainly be getting a lot of attention over the next few months, which is never a bad thing!
Guadagnino’s considered pace allows the sense of longing to permeate through every single scene, and indeed it is this sense of longing, and also belonging that helps to create what is a truly exceptional, and painfully beautiful love story. Both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet are excellent in their roles, with Chalamet in particular being particularly wonderful. The final shot of Chalamet is reason enough for him to be considered in the acting awards this year. Lingering uncomfortably on the screen whilst the credits roll, it is every bit as raw and gut-wrenching as Rooney Mara’s infamous “pie scene” in A Ghost Story, and whilst it lingers agonizingly on the screen, it is nothing in comparison to how long it will linger in your memory.
Call Me By Your Name is as close to perfect as a film can get. With two exceptional lead performances and a romance that is overflowing with joy and passion, it is simply a delight from start to finish.