In its purest form cinema captures the broad spectrum of intoxicating emotions that tend to define our lives. Unravelling the excruciatingly raw yet celestial nature of first love, Luca Guadagnino’s (A Bigger Splash) exquisite new film Call Me By Your Name will thus strike a chord with many.
Basking in the endless sunshine of northern Italy, precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) spends the balmy summer days leisurely transcribing classical sheet music and devouring copious amounts of paperback books. His world is drastically turned upside down upon the arrival of Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsomely suave and emphatically confident post-grad American student who has been flown out to intern for Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specialising in Greco-Roman antiquity.
What you then get it a sun drenched coming of age love story that’s achingly passionate. It starts out timid, stealing a few furtive glances here and there, before tumbling head long into an evocative eruption of awakened desire. Guadagnino wrestles the inevitable conflicting emotions of longing and rejection with a stinging universal truth so potent, it is at times almost unbearable.
Call Me By Your Name is based on André Aciman’s acclaimed 2007 novel of the same name and sees James Ivory (of Merchant and Ivory fame) adapting the source material. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s postcard cinematography is sheer artistry too, which elevates the film to a constant idyllic state of temperate wistfulness. The sumptuous pallet hues of red, blue and orange seem to have been lifted straight from a dreamy holiday nostalgia.
Chalamet is a revelation newcomer as Elio, weaving between intellectual sureness and emotional vulnerability with authenticity. Hammer brings a heady organic magnetism to Oliver that permeates everyone who comes into contact him. It’s arguably his greatest role since playing the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network. Whilst each performance in Call Me By Your Name is exemplary, it is Chalamet and Hammer who rightful deserve the swirling Oscar buzz.
As in Guadagnino’s previous works (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) he lavishly showcases his beloved home country, this time swapping Milan and Pantelleria retrospectively for Lombardy. Still, this is Guadagnino’s most authentic offering to date, the fondness his has for the characters and setting radiates throughout, this is in thanks part to the boldly executed direction. Given the somewhat troubling age gap (Elio’s 17 to Oliver’s more experienced 24) Guadagnino needs to be given props for navigating around the potential predatory overtones. Never once does the blossoming relationship feel exploitative.
The retro 1980s backdrop is ever presence from unmistakable pop soundtrack (which includes The Psychedelic Furs) to Elio’s Sony Walkman. It is an era which has been loving remastered. Bookending this poignant love affair is an eloquently charged speech from Elio’s father, which is one of finest monologues cinema has ever witnessed. Its frank forthrightness will touch the souls of every audience member.
Bowing out with the most heartbreaking credits of 2017, Call Me By Your Name is an exquisite, cinematic portrayal of love.
Call Me By Your Name is in UK cinemas now.