Some films that capture you from the very first frame and stick with you long after the cinema lights have come back on. Luca Guadagnino's latest Call Me By Your Name is one of those films. Based on the best selling novel by André Acimen, Call Me By Your Name chronicles the summer romance between 17 year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and an American student named Oliver (Armie Hammer) who comes to stay at the family's Lombardy house under his father's tutelage.
The film is beautifully constructed and expertly adapted by James Ivory, who manages to weave the romance without relying on traditional adaptation tropes. Call Me By Your Name feels remarkably like watching a novel, an experience I don't exactly know how to put into words. The relationship between Elio and Oliver, particularly the set up to this epic romance, is a slow burn, and the film takes its time to help establish the characters and their motivations which makes the relationship that much sweeter.
Elio and Oliver's romance transcends not only the sexual but the emotional; it's perfect in its finite capsule of time. Chalamet and Hammer do a breathtakingly beautiful job at bringing the characters to life, and along with Ivory's screenplay, Call Me By Your Name manages to directly capture the fear and hesitation the relationship causes, without being melodramatic. A beautiful allegory is drawn between Elio and Oliver's relationship and their shared Jewish faith. Early in the film, Elio tells Oliver how he might be the only other Jew besides his family to ever step foot in the town. In another instance, Oliver glimpses a photo of Mussolini, 'il Duce,' hanging over the entrance of a local woman's door. The political climate of post-WWII Italy plays an integral yet incredibly subtle role in Call Me By Your Name as Elio and Oliver not only struggle to subdue their 'irregular' feelings towards each other, but the younger of the two finds immense difficulty presenting himself as someone of the Jewish faith, growing closer to his heritage and religious upbringing as he grows closer to Oliver.
The representation of Italy in Call Me By Your Name is something of beauty. In a cinematic climate where romantic escapades across the Italian peninsula have become tired and cliché, Guadagnino's latest film shows an incredibly authentic image of Italy. Having spent my teenage years in small-town Italy, I deeply relate to Elio's passive attitude towards life in his holiday home. The relationship at the core of the film is heightened that much more by this indifference; it's the one thing Elio has to look forward to over that summer; the thing that gives his life any sort of meaning during those six weeks of Oliver's stay. Guadagnino also manages to capture the beauty of Europe in his characters, showcasing the cosmopolitan air of Italy's wealthier families. Italian-French-American, Elio and his family and friends create a tapestry of culture that is often overlooked. The entire image of a multi-ethnic and culturally benefitting society is just that much more bittersweet through the lens of Brexit.
The film is beautifully shot, through a soft lens which only helps heighten the romantic tension between the characters. The score, which is a mix of beautifully classical piano ballads, blend exceptionally well with two original songs by singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, whose familiar melodies of melancholy bring the film's emotional moments to a screaming climax. As said above, Call Me By Your Name's pace is unique, taking the time to develop the characters before overwhelming audiences with the epic romance between Elio and Oliver. The film's editorial team, headed by long-time Guadagnino collaborator Walter Fasano, is a force to be reckoned with, allowing Call Me By Your Name to feel monumental without dragging the story out past it's expiration.
Like Moonlight last year, Call Me By Your Name proves that often times the most simple narratives can be the most profound. The film is an emotional rollercoaster which captures desire in its purest form. By far my favourite film of 2017, Call Me By Your Name is a testament to honest, character-driven films that transcend genre and showcase relationships rarely shown on screen that manage to captivate audiences from every walk of life. I can only hope that, like Moonlight last year, Call Me By Your Name takes the upcoming awards season by storm, particularly Chalamet's honest and serenely painful performance as Elio.
Published by Gemma Pecorini Goodall