Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Written by: James Ivory
Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel
No matter how much we believe we know ourselves, someone introduced into our lives can come in like a wrecking ball and change everything from the way we think or even breathe. It can be slight but then could suddenly consume you in every single way. It also does not hurt if all of this takes place in the beautiful Italian countryside as in Call Me By Your Name.
Spending the usual summer at their Italian summer home, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) meets the new graduate student working with his father named Oliver (Armie Hammer). Through their blossoming friendship, Elio begins to fall in love with Oliver as they fight off the temptation potentially ceasing their connection.
As the beautiful water flows through the rivers, as does the beautiful story told within the spectacular Call Me By Your Name. A story filling in a coming of age tale, but also one of a flowing romance and the realities of life for a young man in Elio. He pretty much lives the dream life with two parents supporting him all of the time and can each speak multiple languages. Their intellectual hunger has rubbed off on him and he can easily speak English, Spanish, and French. Elio plays the piano at an advanced level and spends his summers in Italy reading books, transcribing music, and enjoying the countryside of Northern Italy. He seems to be pretty confident in his ability to attract women, which changes upon the arrival of Oliver. A graduate student seeking to spend a limited time with Elio’s father to write his book under his stewardship as he completes his doctorate. Their paths cross and it makes for a loving experience.
The beauty found in this feature blooms from its ability to allow these two to discover the feelings they have for each other as naturally as possible. They have fears of what may occur if they act upon their feelings, but the film refuses to dwell on this justified nervousness. Instead, it allows for the subtle moments of touching and longing looks to become the focus of their relationship. This connection begins in such small ways and it starts as a push and pull between the two, as they wear a mask of what they want to be but cannot always keep it on. This romance gets a nice assist from the beautiful background of this countryside. This environment would most likely be found in those travel magazines or on desktop backgrounds, as a regular day consists of a luscious breakfast and a stroll down to town on bikes.
Based on the novel of the same name, this film had some great material to pull from, but credit must be given to James Ivory, who beautifully put this together for a narrative feature. The language and the dialogue feel as effervescent as if one were reading it directly from a book with each passing moment of dialogue feeling like a line from a poem. Every character in this feature has a level of intelligence made clear through the way they speak and it makes all the more touching when Elio and Oliver can barely say the words they feel in their most intimate moments.
If there’s an award for the most beautiful looking cast ever, this group certainly would be in the running, as they exude what spending a summer in this paradise does to you. The breakout star of this feature, Timothée Chalamet, put together such a beautiful vulnerable performance as Elio. He brings so much humanity to this role and takes a character, who could be classified as arrogant and a bit of an asshole into a completely lovable person. Seriously, he does some pretty messed up things but you just do not care because Chalamet makes him impossible to dislike and you just want him to succeed in his pursuits. Truly a standout performance by Chalamet and he paired incredibly well with Armie Hammer. An actor who attempted to make waves in some blockbusters but truly found himself in the independent scene with the character of Oliver. Certainly, a much more masculine character who knows the consequences of what can occur with their relationship, Hammer drops those grins and utilizes his booming voice to become someone irresistible to everyone around him.
Every other side character had their moment to shine, but the one who dropped the mic was Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio’s father. He remains fairly passive for most of the film, as Elio and Oliver travel around this small town. He gives his small looks and drops the occasional nugget, but he gets his moment in the film where he completely broke my heart with his incredible monologue. Stripped directly from the novel, which speaks to emotional damage caused by relationships and what can occur if we let it destroy us inside and out. Stuhlbarg never disappoints, and he usually gets the opportunity to have a devastating moment such as this one even in his smaller roles.
Art becomes a focal point of this story as it revolves around many of the conversations held between the characters and how they code the things they truly want to say. From using an old German tale or the music of Bach played through the perspective of other musicians. These forms of art have served as a level of communication since the dawn of humanity and it’s utilized beautifully between these characters.
As the credits roll on this masterful feature film, it sticks with me just how vulnerable this story is from the first interaction between Oliver and Elio until their final embrace. The idea of being extremely masculine never crosses the mind of anyone in this narrative, because it just does not need to be present. Instead, we get a group of people sharing what they love and celebrating life in a way other factions of the world would not allow. Call Me By Your Name gives the world to these characters and the actors take the loving dialogue and deliver with such compassion and grace. Every moment, touch, musical note, and stanza says more than meets the eye just like the title, which serves as a way of emotional connection not many ever experience.