Call Me by Your Name - 2018
Director(s): Luca Guadagnino
Writer(s): James Ivory (screenplay) / André Aciman (novel)
Cinematography by: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Editor(s): Walter Fasano
Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar and Esther Garrel
Synopsis: In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen-year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape (IMDB).
This movie has been on my radar ever since it made waves in 2017’s Sundance Film Festival. Everyone and anyone that saw this movie couldn’t stop talking about it. The award season came rolling around and it started to become a front runner in many of the “big name” awards, including Best Picture at the Oscars. All this hype and anticipation gave me a sense of worry that it wouldn’t live up to the movie I was creating in my head. As soon as I sat down in that chair, the movie washed over me and I realized; my imagination will never win the Best Picture Award, but the movie Luca Guadagnino made has a great shot in a year filled with wonderful movies.
Luca Guadagnino is a name that wasn’t on my radar at all. He has been making movies for years both, in Italy and in Hollywood, but has never had this widespread attention for one of his projects. After watching how he shot this movie and the performances he brought out of his actors, I’m very excited to see where his career goes from here. The movie is mainly told through the eyes of Elio, played beautifully by Timothée Chalamet, which lead to a somewhat erratic tone. When you’re that age, the world doesn’t fully make sense due to your hormones getting out of control. It feels as if Elio is trying to remember that summer he fell in love; scenes jump almost abruptly from one point to another, there are moments that the camera loses focus and there are some stylistic choices that interpret his overflowing emotions in the moment. All of this adds up to a visually and tonally compelling retelling of the first true love of a teenager, finding his sexuality and his place in the world.
Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom gave this movie a glow that I can only describe as warm. Watching them bathe in the sun, swim in the lake and dance at night made me smile as I felt transported to that summer in Italy. It was vibrant, sexy and visually satisfying even if it was just them riding bikes in the beautiful landscape of Italy. These great visuals are elevated by a soundtrack that I will add to my personal music collection. It’s mainly piano music, since Elio is a piano wizard and it perfectly fits the world we are currently inhabiting, but it just helps the audience fall even deeper in love with the mise en scène utilized in every single frame of the movie.
Quick note: They use Sufjan Stevens song “Mystery of Love” for both the trailer and a getaway in the third act of the movie. The lyric is 100% a reflection of Elio’s feelings towards Oliver, played by Armie Hammer. “Oh, to see without my eyes. The first time that you kissed me. Boundless by the time I cried. I built your walls around me.” His love and pain live endlessly in his mind’s eye.
The acting. Yeah, the acting in this movie is wonderful. Timothée Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver are perfect dancing partners. Both have contrasting personalities, Elio is an introvert living through his music and books and Oliver is a carefree extrovert that within days of being in Italy, already knows everyone and is playing cards with the old regulars from the local bar. Both Elio and Oliver go through an arc as their love bloom. Their personalities change as Elio starts coming out of his shell, while Oliver starts to smile and look more engaged in the moment rather than his C'est la vie attitude in the beginning. But the stand-out storyline is Chalamet’s inner conflict and him trying to wrestle with his out of control emotions for another person, especially one of the same sex. He sells his emotions through his eyes as we don’t need to be told what he is thinking, we can see it.
Quick note: even if Chalamet’s entire performance up to the last scene would have been “meh” (it wasn’t), him staring at the fire reflecting on his relationship would’ve made me fall in love with his performance. Also, my theory is that at this moment, him staring at the fire, is where the movie takes place. In his mind. I love this movie.
The rest of the cast is fit perfectly in their roles, Elio’s parents each fully fleshed out characters, but the one that deserves more praise is Michael Stuhlbarg for his performance as his dad. He has a genuine glee through the entire movie as teaching fulfills him to the nth degree. He comes alive whenever he has a chance to share his knowledge and is always wearing a smile after his points land and he sees Oliver learn something new thanks to him. But where he truly shines is during the moment when he is consoling his son, now heartbroken because the summer has ended and Oliver had to return to his home. It’s a speech that came out of nowhere for me and it hit me hard, as his words are both drenched in kindness and sadness. The words are coming from a place that he has hidden from the entire world, including his wife. He urges his son to live both in the sorrow and happiness of the moment, to not kill his emotions and become jaded like many in this world do by the age of thirty. The third act of this movie packs a punch that leaves you reeling as you walk out of the movie.
Call Me By Your Name was one of my most anticipated movies of the year and after watching it, I can’t believe it lived up to the hype. Every single element of this movie worked in perfect cohesion. The acting, direction, soundtrack and the writing are all on point with not even one being a weak link. Timothée Chalamet is starting his career and this performance is well beyond his years, I look forward to his growth as an actor. This entire movie is why I love movies.
Call Me By Your Name is currently in theaters. Catch it if you can, you won’t regret it.
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