Call Me by Your Name | Luca Guadagnino | NYFF 2017
Ah, to be young and in love. We all remember “our first.” The most powerful part of young romance is the associations one makes with that time period, the sort of unshakable little details that would mean nothing to a total stranger, but for you, they mean the world. For so many of us, summertime means endless days spent with friends, at the ballpark, at camp, or on a lengthy vacation where the freedom to lounge almost becomes torturous by nature. This also gave way to the possibility of summertime romance, the sort of idealistic idea that we all have in our heads about the freedom to be carefree and in love. But what happens when reality starts to kick in and suddenly you realize you do care and it absolutely hurts to do so. Well, then you have Call Me by Your Name, the latest from Italian director Luca Guadagnino.
Guadagnino directs based on James Ivory’s screen adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name. 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is having a lovely vacation with his parents in a lovely part of Northern Italy where he swims, flirts with girls and plays the piano. Every summer his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an archaeology professor, invites a graduate student of his to join his family during their stay and help him with his work. This year the student of choice is American Oliver (Armie Hammer), a big brooding stereotype of the sort of Massachusetts frat boy that you’d see on a Polo advertisement.
There’s a strange curiosity and interest brewing between both Elio and Oliver, one that neither can quite put their finger on. As they spend more time alone with one another they realize they share a mutual attraction that they know is forbidden but with the possibility of endless summer they can’t help but fall in love with one another. What begins as a curious exploration soon blossoms into a full-on love affair that they can hardly keep to themselves. Although no one else catches on to them, Elio’s parents notice they’re becoming quite close and his girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel) becomes frustrated with his sudden lack of interest in her.
What makes this such an extraordinary experience is the way that Guadagnino transports us into the experience of this idealistic vacation, where we feel like we are sweating alongside these characters in this unbearable heat that we love just as much as it frustrates. We can all connect to the story in some way, the idea of finding a love that you know can’t possibly end well but you go with it anyway because, what the hell, you’re young and in love and in that moment, nothing else matters. But Guadagnino and Ivory capture the heartbreak just as authentically as the blossoming romance and it’s in the heartbreak that Call Me by Your Name is elevated into one of the best movies of the entire year.
Anchored by two terrific performances from Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, the film relies on their chemistry to hold it all together and boy does it ever. This is a true star-making performance from Chalamet who is able to convey so much pain and sadness from just a look or glance, saying so much without saying anything at all. This is also the strongest work to date for Armie Hammer who has had a tough time navigating the waters of Hollywood to date but he is a perfect match for this role and brings a good balance of cockiness and honesty that this almost duel role calls for
While Michael Stuhlbarg (who is having a terrific year) has a limited amount of screentime as Elio’s father, there’s one particular scene during a crucial moment that is absolutely moving and unforgettable, the sort of scene that should net him an Oscar just based on his performance there alone. It may just be the finest scene of the entire year.
There’s so much to admire and love about Luca Guadagnino’s film. From its look at the trials and tribulations of young love, and the commanding performance of its entire cast. Then there’s the beautiful capture of the Italian landscape by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom and the fitting and brutally touching original songs that Sufjan Stevens wrote for the film that almost act as another character of sorts during curucial, pivitol moments.
Call Me by Your Name may not only be one of the best romantic films of the year one that looks at the idea of young romance and heartbreak in such a raw passionate manner that it is bound to move you to tears and reflect on all your past lost loves, bringing back memories that you forgot you missed or that you’d rather just forget. That’s the beauty of love, the pleasure and the pain simply come together, for better and worse.