Love and Understanding are central themes in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name; final entry in auteur’s Desire trilogy.
The best moments in our lives are when we least expect something to happen. This is true in all aspects in life, but especially in love. Love is such a tender experience, especially to a seventeen-year-old who might be aware of certain feelings and reactions, but never really knowing how to emotionally handle either.
Italian director, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, is the rich, lush adaptation of André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel of the same name, on which James Ivory based his screenplay. Set in the summer of 1983, young Elio Pearlman (Timothée Chalamet) lives in his parents’ Italian countryside villa. His father, Sam (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of archaeology. He and his wife, Annella (Amira Casar) invite a young graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer) to spend the summer with them in order to complete his graduate work. As Oliver and Elio form a bond, it turns into something much more than either expected.
This film is very much the work of a master who understands, not only the original novel, but also how to frame unspoken love in so few words using mere actions. Mr. Chalamet’s performance is one of many highlights as he plays a young man trying to find his place in the world while working through feelings of love and contemplating its effect on his heritage. Mr. Hammer is stunning as Oliver, a carefree individual who knows what he wants, but is cautious about announcing his intentions.
There is a natural inclination between Mr. Chalamet and Mr. Hammer, an ease if you will, that allows them to long for each other in the way that passionate lovers do. Mr. Guadagnino was certain to have Mr. Chalamet and Mr. Hammer spend as much time with each other over the shot and it shows in their performances, even down to the sensual part of the each of their respective roles. There is a natural ease about Michael Stuhlbarg’s and Ms. Casar’s performances that blends into the overall framework Mr. Guadagnino created, a joyous and inviting environment that Mr. and Mrs. Pearlman offer. There’s never an elitist attitude in any of the situations, only understanding.
Key to the dialog-lite nature of the film is the cinematography. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom brilliantly captured the natural light of the Italian countryside as well as the essence of being a teenager in the early 1980’s. The use of natural light extends to interior locations as well. Most importantly, his cinematography passionately captures Elio and Oliver in a natural way.
In keeping with Elio’s nature, music is as much a character as the others. Sufjan Stevens, a multi-talented singer-songwriter contributed to the film’s score, much of it piano-based. In addition, Mr. Guadagnino used pieces from Bach and Revel, pieces that Elio would have played in the film along with contemporary, 1980’s pop tracks that were popular in Europe.
Firmly cemented in multiple ‘Top 10’ lists, the accolades for the film, especially the performances have begun to roll in as of this writing, including the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute. It premiered to a standing ovation at Sundance, Berlin and New York, the latter had the longest standing ovation in that festival’s history. Both Mr. Chalamet and Mr. Hammer have been nominated by the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, the Spirit Awards and the Golden Globes, while Mr. Stuhlbarg has also been nominated by the Spirit Awards, sharing the same category with Hammer. The Phoenix Critics Circle awarded Mr. Chalamet with their Best Actor Award as well.
Call Me by Your Name expanded to a number of theaters this past weekend and is a perfectly timed film that speaks on multiple levels. Much like Brokeback Mountain and last year’s Moonlight, Mr. Guadagnino’s final installment in his Desire trilogy, following I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015) ends on a very high note, while being respectful of its many nuances.
Now in theaters, Call Me by Your Name is rated R by the MPAA.
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