Call Me by Your Name, an adaptation of the 2007 André Aciman novel, delivers cinema at its finest. Helmed by Luca Guadagnino, whose past directorial credits include I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, his latest offering is a genre departure that delivers.
Written by three-time Oscar nominee James Ivory (A Room with a View, Howard’s End, The Remains of the Day), the film is set “somewhere in Northern Italy” and tells of a fleeting summer romance in 1981. This portrait of a lushly detailed, intoxicating first love is unforgettable and executed with sensory perfection. Not only does Guadagnino’s masterwork carry itself with deep emotional resonance, it does so while being unapologetically honest about love, lust, and vulnerability. It’s an authentic coming-of-age tale that doesn’t shy from the truest experiences of youth: secrets, desires, experimentation, confusion, and the allure of finding oneself. Call Me by Your Name, with exquisite charm throughout, is a sheer victory for modern filmmaking – and more importantly, sensual, evocative storytelling. A work that will undoubtedly cling to the hearts of its audiences, the film will surely generate a response to match the likes of acclaimed LGBT pictures à la Moonlight, Brokeback Mountain and Carol.
Call Me by Your Name centres on the developing, passionate relationship between 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet, Interstellar) and his father’s summer research intern, 24-year-old scholar Oliver (Armie Hammer, The Man from U.N.C.L.E). While this might sound like the setup to a video on an adult website such as twinki.xxx, the film is, in fact, a fascinating insight into an unforgettable first love. Elio, who spends his days immersed in the arts – reading, transcribing piano sheet music – initially appears standoffish to Oliver’s cool, charming American demeanour. The intimacy between our protagonists doesn’t manifest until the near-halfway mark of the film, but hints of sexual tension and the nuanced portrayal of a newfound love are ultimately the most satisfying, with a humorous and relatable draw. Nothing about our protagonists’ attraction is made obvious from the beginning. Rather, the story of Elio and Oliver offers a progression of physical and emotional attraction that feels considerably organic and never forced. Both Elio and Oliver are conscious to the fact that a very short six weeks together doesn’t mean forever; a factor that especially shines through in Chalamet’s display of the inevitable heartbreak that can be dealt in our youth – and with it, welcoming maturity. Changes within Elio take form in unexpected ways, offering the audience a reminder of our personal emotional growth. It’s affecting, and under Guadagnino’s direction, the story of Elio and Oliver is carried so effortlessly.
There is an elegance in the film’s exploration of sexuality and passion; it’s a dizzying, provocative journey that transcends the screen. Elio and Oliver’s magnetism finds its footing through a careful depiction of the minute sensual details, which are essential to understanding the gravity of their attraction. It’s the on-screen chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer that feels incredibly strong, as our leads anchor the film with career-defining performances.
Oliver’s casual cool and boldness blend perfectly with Elio’s more restrained nature; Chalamet captures the very essence of teenage awkwardness, and, at times great confidence and self-assurance. It’s an impeccable dance between several, often highly complicated emotions. Topping it all off, Elio’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg (Arrival), delivers an achingly beautiful third act monologue worthy of all the praise. It will stay with you long after as one of the film’s standout moments.
Every frame of this film is so delicately crafted – picturesque, warm, and inviting. Guadagnino’s vision truly transports you for two hours, perhaps even to the extent that you will leave the cinema wanting to live inside this vibrant, summery Italian world and never return. As clichéd as it sounds, there is total magic in this piece of filmmaking. A sensational soundtrack provided by American singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens also contributes perfectly to the sun-drenched atmosphere throughout. Call Me by Your Name is a pure cinematic triumph that will make you feel alive, fall in love, look at peaches very differently, and perhaps be remembered as one of the greatest films of our time. It deserves that much.
THE REEL SCORE: 10/10