Release: 5th March 2018
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
It’s the summer of 1983 in Italy, and Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a precocious 17-year-old, spends his days in his family’s villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading and flirting with his fried Marzia. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming American scholar, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father, an eminent professor. Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
Ok, let’s get this bit out of the way. Yes, Call Me By Your Name has a very…memorable…moment with a peach, but it’s possibly the least emotionally impactful scene in a film littered with beauty, grace and some of the more outstanding performances of this year’s awards movies. What is the most surprising, however, is that as much as Luca Guadagnino’s adaptation is about the awakening of a homosexual relationship, it has more to say about the philosophy of love as a whole.
Depicted as a sweaty and sun soaked ‘summer movie’, Call Me By Your Name is equal part tourism advertisement for Northern Italy – devoid of Americana, dripping with European academia – and unsentimental nostalgia for a bygone era of 80’s youth. In short, it is the anti-Stranger Things. Not to say that these two properties are at odds with each other, in fact you could argue that they are different sides of the same coin. There is not denying that Call Me By Your Name is very much a coming of age tale with some amazing 80’s music and dancing. It’s just that Guadagnino is more interested in that stage between teen years and fledgling adulthood. In fact, the oft under-appreciated Jason Reitman film Labor Day is a nice companion piece here. But we digress.
Call Me By Your Name is a perfect little slice of European cinema that sets the scene for its central cast to give stunning performances; with newcomer Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer proving that in spite of the controversy, sometimes it is better to cast quality actors over casting for the sake of positive discrimination. One might argue that these could be career-defining turns for both. Then there is Michael Stuhlbarg; but more on him in a bit.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that Call Me By Your Name is a little pompous. These are not easily accessible characters. Elio is surly, Oliver is arrogant, and everyone else seems to be either obsessed with food, sex or antiquities. This is a world filled with sleepy intelligence and aloof sensibilities; but that is all dressing, because at the core of the matter lies a universal truth; the heart wants what the heart wants. Whatever walk of life you come from, Call Me By Your Name is that tale of that summer when we not only found love, but also when we began to realise who we were. It is a tale as old as time, from A Brief Encounter to American Graffiti. But what makes Call Me By Your Name so special is that not only is Elio discovering his adulthood, but Oliver is discovering truths about himself as well. This is a story about self-discovery as a concept, not just a time in one’s youth. It presents the truth that ‘becoming’ is a process not a moment. We don’t emerge from adolescence fully formed. It is Stuhlbarg’s heartbreaking monologue near the film’s end that expresses this. (As an aside, it could be argued that this monologue alone is proof that a talented actor need only a few lines to run away with a movie.)
Punctuated by Sufjan Stevens’ ghostly voice and Guadagnino’s pitch perfect choice to shoot entirely on a 35mm lens, here is a film that rests somewhere between reality and dream. It radiates moisture and massages all of the senses as it lures us into a romanticised rural Eden, ripe with fruit, music and laughter. There are the overt sensual moments that some might find a little uncomfortable, but Guadagnino is not interested in producing ‘queer cinema’. Sexual awakening, especially for boys, is an awkward, stuffy and…liquid heavy…experience. But at no point is the film gross or gratuitous; American Pie this is not. Instead, there is a patience here. Guadagnino lets the film breathe and take on a life of its own. At times, this means the pacing is a little off, and sequences are not always serving the plot. But it is a tremendous exercise in tone, and it is easy to see why cast and crew alike wish to revisit this world in numerous sequels. Call Me By Your Name might not do much for the sale of stoned fruits, but it will provide a catalyst and a voice for many people who find growing up to be a confusing and isolating experience. And that final scene is just utter poetry.
Film Grade: B+
A pretty engaging Q&A that offers up some insider tidbits of information (i.e; Hammer describing the oddities of dancing on film) and a relatively high level Making Of. Then additional a Music Video is just filler. Even a director’s commentary would have been nice.
Special Features Grade: C-
For a film so deep a meaningful, it is a shame that the accompanying features are so flaky and sparse.