Wonderfully humane and touching, Call Me by Your Name is as timeless a love story as any and stands as one of 2017's best offerings.
With 2009’s I Am Love and 2015’s A Bigger Splash, Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino solidified his position as one of the world’s most promising directors, a craftsman over a decade into his career but still just a few steps away from his crowning achievement. Combining Italian filmmaking sensibilities with Western actors, Guadagnino has already established himself a distinct identity in his films. All this, of course, would be rendered rather meaningless without a piece to bring it all together, a film to capitalise on all the potential. Enter Call Me by Your Name, an intimate yet emotionally expansive film about love, relationships and passion, and one of the year’s finest films thus far.
Set in Northern Italy in the summer of 1983, Call Me by Your Name follows 17-year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) who, alongside his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar), play host to graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) whom Elio finds himself increasingly drawn to as the two develop a passionate relationship. At its core, Call Me by Your Name is a beautiful love story; a tale of one teenager experiencing love for the first time and the man who gives him an unforgettable experience in the process. Whilst some may question the age gap between Elio and Oliver, that really is not what this film is about, you could substitute these two characters for two individuals of any other age, gender, race or sexuality and it would remain just as powerful. Call Me by Your Name is as much a coming-of-age story and journey of self-discovery as it is a love story, it is humane and real, don’t we all experience something similar in our lives?
Of course, a love story is only ever as touching and powerful as those at the centre of it. In what is truly a breakout role, Chalamet anchors the film fantastically, he conveys Elio’s maturity and sophistication on the one hand and his vulnerability and desperation on the other in a tightrope role which asks a lot of the young actor in such an early stage of his career. Opposite him, Hammer delivers a performance which requires much more confidence and charisma; Oliver fascinates and enamours Elio through his charm and extroverted behaviour, and Hammer portrays the character to perfection – it is easily his best work since he burst onto the scene in The Social Network. The work of the film’s leads is what truly helps this romance to blossom and flourish, they instantly smash through any possible restraints or obstacles en route to displaying excellent chemistry. Call Me by Your Name is a snapshot story, six weeks to be precise, and Guadagnino’s script (co-written by James Ivory and Walter Fasano) allows this love story to naturally develop and grow over this period, the film burns slowly but once it has its claws in, it refuses to let go. It’s beautifully human and real, as any real love should be. Every realistic and possible emotion is rung out of love by Chalamet and Hammer, they convey it all perfectly.
As with A Bigger Splash, Guadagnino captures the spirit and tone of the secluded European sun-kissed summer from the off; the sense of freedom and atmosphere of passion is palpable from the opening moments. The cinematography is exquisite, the score equally so. The world of Call Me by Your Name is one that you’ll envy and crave to live in, Guadagnino’s creation is executed with great panache. With a broad emotional spectrum, Call Me by Your Name stirs up laughter, tears, happy memories, sad regrets and, when it’s all over, a yearning to relive it all over again, there’s something truly intoxicating and infectious about the whole experience.
This a product of meticulous design, Guadagnino’s best film to date and possibly the best film of the year. What could easily have been a difficult film to connect with ends up being an epic of sorts, a cinematic voyage which packs in so much of what makes film a powerful medium and displays a piece that is truly the culmination of what any director strives to achieve. Call Me by Your Name is a timeless love story.
Call Me by Your Name (2017), directed by Luca Guadagnino, is showing as part of the 2017 BFI London Film Festival, further information can be found here.