In 2017, Italian director Luca Guadagnino of A Bigger Splash (2015) and more recently the Coming-of-age television drama, We Are Who We Are (2020), that premiered in September, expertly brought to life Andre Aciman’s acclaimed novel, Call Me By Your Name with the phenomenal James Ivory penning the script.
From page to screen, not an ounce of feeling was lost in translation with this sensitive and intimate adaption about first love and devastating loss. It’s easy to see why the film received well-deserved accolades upon its debut and an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay to match, not to mention the poignant performance given by Timothée Chalamet as Elio, to which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Armie Hammer gives a subtle and potent performance as the elusive Oliver, that’s harmonious with Chalamet in every way, leaving us with a chemistry and electricity on screen that is felt well past when the credits roll.
Oh man, the credits! More on that later.
This review is a long time coming, but I believe that now more than ever, is a great time to watch a film with the underlying theme of memory, nostalgia for what we have yet to lose, and burgeoning desire.
Taking place in Italy circa 1983, the film follows precocious Elio Perlman (Chalamet) in a timeless summer at his family’s villa, when he falls for the charming and elusive Oliver (Hammer), a graduate student staying with the family to work for Elio’s father. In the coming 6-weeks, what ignites is a heartbreaking all-consuming romance that will change the boys’ lives forever.
Watching the film felt like reliving a memory. Through the intimate and grainy cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom paired with excellent direction by Guadagnino, with a focus on form that allows style to follow, it’s as if we are taken back to a preserved moment. The film is warm like summer, with vibrant orange, yellows, and reds. It’s lucid like a dream or memory utilizing greens and blues that evoke the bright and dreamy look that leaves you nostalgic and longing for another time. The story feels like a slice of life. There are moments that linger and lull. It’s slow, at times unsure, just like it’s two lead characters as they tip-toe around each other in a desperate attempt to keep their feelings at bay. This creates a sense of uncertainty and perfectly builds the passion, which pays off wonderfully. The music and soundtrack is a character within itself. Further contributing to that feeling of atmospheric seduction and desire, which is a mixture of preexisting music, like that of the phenomenal Sufjan Stevens , and a newly created orchestra. The film’s score is simple and soft throughout the film, until it becomes erratic much like the emotions of our characters.
Call Me By Your Name itself is a memory, the events that take place happened years ago, and the film feels like we are looking back on something, or peering in on something intimate and not our own. Guadagnino and Mukdeeprom decided to shoot with only one camera to give it a more immediate and intimate feel. The intimacy is not shot in close ups, but instead in wide shots. Everything plays out in a wide shot that leaves no room for Elio and Oliver to hide: we see every uncertain shift in their bodies, and every failed attempt to move closer to one another, constantly keeping the distance between them.
A lot of what makes this film great is the writing and direction, that is the foundation of the film, of course, but at its heart it’s the standout performances of Chalamet and Hammer that really offer a steady beat that keeps the film alive. The characters spend most of the film at odds with each other and at a distance, but once together the tension and chemistry is palpable and electric. As rich as the passion is, the loss cuts just as deep. As the summer comes to an end, we feel every moment. This all culminates to an unforgettable ending shot that lasts through the credits, it leaves us in tears and in awe.
Verdict: 5 out of 5
Call Me By Your Name is an intoxicating story about first love and first loss. Through nostalgic cinematography, intimate directing, and the poignant performances of Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, we as an audience, receive a lucid and lush dream-like sequence that seems to linger with us as if the scene’s events were a memory that we had previously lived. With that, I recommend you watch this film and savor every moment, it’s definitely something you won’t forget.