Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Starring Timothée Chalamet, Arnie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino.
My ‘to-watch’ list is not letting me down! I seem to start a list shortly after awards season has ended and unlike most years at the Oscars, this year I actually understand the hype and the accolade behind every film it has given backing. Call Me By Your Name is warm, nostalgic, both heart warming and breaking and guaranteed to give you all the feels.
Elio (Chalamet) is 17 years old and living the dream in the Italian countryside with his parents. Handsome, but more boyish than he perhaps believes, Elio is confident and smart, liked by everyone who meets him and fancied by every girl in town. When College student Oliver (Hammer) arrives to assist Elio’s father with some work, Elio’s whole world is thrown off balance. Oliver looks like the American ideal distilled into a single man and with his charm, looks and presence outstripped, Elio is immediately transfixed.
It really is a beautiful love story. Elio goes through the motions of every teenager, but ultimately loses that confidence and wit once he realises what is happening to him. Oliver makes him nervous, shy and heightens his sense of curiosity to a new level. If it hadn’t have been for spoilers I think I would have been more surprised upon discovering where this story was going. It wasn’t completely obvious these two characters were gay, especially when Oliver charms the local women and has them swooning at his feet. However, Oliver’s approach to Elio felt very different, and it was clear Elio made Oliver feel things he had never felt before.
Guadagnino’s storytelling made this romance all the more romantic and wonderful. He fills every scene with life – trees are heavy with fruit, people are always eating, the chirping of crickets a constant soundtrack. He thrusts life at you and wills his characters to live theirs. Elio and Oliver spend a lot of time together, never addressing the elephant in the room. Long summer days drift away in a gentle routine of swimming, cycling and nothing, but each day that passes with feelings unvoiced is a day lost — they will never have it back. It’s a real summer romance tinged with sadness by the very fact it will all have to end.
The screenplay is elegant and full of small surprises. The level of attention given to even the smallest of characters means so many of them have an impact even with minimal screen time. Elio’s brief girlfriend breaks your heart with a handful of lines – “I fear you are going to hurt me”. The narrative gives room for characters like Elio to venture into unknown territory, forcing a journey of self-discovery at any cost. Elio is desperate to work out what, or rather who, he wants. The paternal monologue by Stuhlbarg in the final minutes I felt concluded the film in all its glory. It was a testament to our current time, and full of emotion and approval from a loving parent who loves their son unconditionally.
Chalamet is the centre and he gives a mesmerising performance. It’s not a film to swoon over him (Ladybird will do that), but more a film to marvel at his talent as an actor. All Elio’s teenage emotions are raw on Chalamet’s skin. He plays him as a person still forming, not scared by his feelings but surprised. In a film in which every performance is terrific, Chalamet makes the rest look like they’re acting. He alone would make the film worth watching, but he’s just one of countless reasons. I suspect the job offers are rolling in! Arnie Hammer too, I should mention. I was intrigued by this casting decision, and wanted to see how the dynamic and chemistry would work between them. It’s not a pair you would ‘put together’, but the romance that blossomed between them was just, so perfect. They supported each other in equal measure, which makes Call Me By Your Name all the more alluring and money well spent.