Endlessly watchable, Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age drama is a picture perfect piece of filmmaking.
Following Elio (Timothee Chamolet), a seventeen-year-old Jewish American Boy living in the Italian countryside with his parents, Call Me By Your Name explores the young man’s growing attraction to a visiting graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer).
Jacob Richardson | 2/01/2018
Call Me By Your Name
Elio begins the film as a somewhat womanizing young man, and over the course of the film manages to turn his burgeoning relationship with his young girlfriend into a sexual one. However, his motivations for this seem to change with Oliver’s arrival. As he becomes more and more infatuated with the visiting American, he begins to brag about his conquest in an effort to get a reaction. Meanwhile, the older Oliver is clearly attracted to the young Elio; seemingly restraining himself for any number of reasons. When they do eventually consummate their relationship, it kickstarts a sun-soaked period of beauty for the two of them. Alas, it is also one that is necessarily limited by the departure date of the visiting Oliver.
Director Luca Guadagnino paints such an incredibly intricate and emotional portrayal of this young love story that it is hard to not be sucked in. It has all the trappings of the typical indie film you would expect to see getting awards recognition, but it forgoes the plodding plot trappings that competitors so often succumb to, instead creating an atmosphere of intense interest from the get-go.
Guadagnino knows the strong points of this story, focusing on two things above all else; the scenery, and the performance. With respect to the former, watching Call Me By Your Name is an exploration of immersion in impossibly beautiful cinematography. Cinematographer Sayombhu Mekdeeprom brings the sun drenched Italian countryside to life in a way that is inexplicably enticing. He and Guadagnino combine the beautiful naturalistic greens of the trees and auburns of the fruits with historic Italian facades, ruinous building detritus and the muddy browns of unpaved roads. It’s a juxtaposition of nature, man and the progressive cycle between the two that further emphasises the lifecycle of not only Oliver and Elio’s burgeoning, fruitful relationship, but also Elio’s personal growth.
This is supported by performance. Guadagnino knows that in Hammer and Chamolet he has two of the best young actors in the business, and he gives the camera leave to spend time with these two as they not only create, but utterly inhabit these two characters. Hammer, in his short shorts and his perpetually unbuttoned shirt, is a man mountain that personifies everything the young Elio is not. He brings a swagger to Oliver that is undeniable, and crafts a creature of both obnoxious arrogance and lovable self-assuredness. It’s easy to see why Elio is intrigued.
Nevertheless, it is Chamolet’s film. As Elio, Chamolet gets the flashier role; a more nuanced character. His exploration of these growing feelings is masterful. It’s easiest to highlight his incredible final scene, flitting between myriad emotions as he cries over a fireplace, in the end credits sequence as the perfect demonstration of the young man’s talent, but that would be selling an actor of this character short. Timothy Chamolet is consistently excellent throughout the film, whether he’s exploring his own growing sexual desires, dealing with the loneliness of spurned love, staring down humiliation, or bonding with his father. It’s a masterful performance period; let alone from one this young.
There are a number of other standout elements. One could note the incredible soundtrack, featuring original pieces from Sufjan Stevens, or the amazing fatherly monologue Michael Stuhlbarg delivers. But it’s the capacity of Luca Guadagnino to melt these disparate elements into a cohesive, beautiful, tear-jerking and, most importantly, entertaining film that will leave you most gobsmacked.
Call Me By Your Name is masterful filmmaking, that will interest everyone from the most casual moviegoer to the deepest film aficionado. Savour a film like this, because skill like this is rarely seen.