Review: Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Call Me by Your Name

Rating

Director

Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay

James Ivory (Novel by André Aciman)

Length

2h 12m

Starring

Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Vanda Capriolo, Antonio Rimoldi

MPAA Rating

R for sexual content, nudity and some language

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Review

The exploration of love is a staple of cinema. It’s one of the few universal constants that can speak to those of all genders, nationalities, and sexualities. Yet, an insufficient number of cinema’s greatest romantic dramas have centered around gay relationships. Call Me by Your Name is one of the few that can lay claim to being one of the all-time greats.

Luca Guadagnino’s painterly exploration of young love and coming of age in Crema, Italy is a gorgeous piece of visual and narrative poetry. A leisurely stroll through the rural Italian countrside accompanies a complex romantic relationship that develops between a young man (Timothée Chalamet) and his father’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) research assistant (Armie Hammer), staying with his family for a short period in the summer of 1983.

Reminiscent of Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours, Call Me by Your Name fills in its details with lush photography of the beautiful environs in which our protagonists struggle with societal influences, sexual urges, and the challenging task of growing up in a world of foreign beauty and differing social mores.

Chalamet delivers a wonderfully complex portrait of a conflicted young man following societal standards regarding romanticism, seeking first to connect with the young women around him and then finally realizing that perhaps his initial attraction to a same-sex paramour is a natural and central part of himself.

No less potent as Chalamet’s love interest, Armie Hammer shows a gravity that he’s not been given much chance to display. His performance is both guarded and cocksure. It is filled with sexual energy, passion, and a sense of trepidation, for finding love in such a socially inhospitable environment is not only challenging, but risky. While the time period of the film was set before AIDS was recognized as the epidemic that it was, love of the kind they display could result in ostracization, rejection, and sometimes even death if not protected. Hammer conveys that world-weary cautiousness that is so easily relatable if you were gay growing up anywhere in the 1990s and earlier.

Stuhlbarg is also given the opportunity to shine. In an eleventh-hour scene, Stuhlbarg talks with Chalamet about his forbidden love and his fatherly advice exposes regret and trepidation over his own past. It is the kind of parental speech that is weighted with love and hope that his son may grow up in a world where he is allowed to express himself and his feelings openly without fear of reprisal. Even if much of the emotion and heft is read into the speech by the audience, it’s Stuhlbarg’s command of the scene that enables that interpretation.

Although Guadagnino has resisted calling this a gay love story, the question is about representation. Seeing yourself within the characters on the big screen helps draw you into the cinematic experience. It helps you identify your own past and reconcile that your love is no less valid than anyone else’s. While society has made great strides since the period in which this film is set, there are still struggles for gay couples in today’s world. Call Me by Your Name allows that under-represented audience, somewhat distanced from the typical portrayals of straight relationships on screen, feel as if they are part of the larger universe and that they too can find that one special someone, culture be damned.

Call Me by Your Name is a film of bristling romanticism, rich emotional complexity, and palpable sensual energy that rivals the sumptuous environment in which it’s set.

Oscar Prospects (Made Prior to Nominations)

Guarantees: Picture, Actor (Timothée Chalamet), Adapted Screenplay
Probables: Original Score, Cinematography
Potentials: Director, Supporting Actor (Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg), Original Song, Film Editing

Review Written

June 28, 2018

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