TL;DR – A beautifully films film, with a great cast, but the story does not always work for me
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – No
So I have to admit this was a hard film to track down near me, which is why this review is quite late compared to many others, however, after an hour trip into town I finally got the chance to give Call Me By Your Name a watch. Well as my father never says, better late than never, so let’s dive into the world of the Italian countryside in the 1980s.
So to set the scene, one hot summer in the countryside of northern Italy we come across Elio (Timothée Chalamet), his father (Michael Stuhlbarg) and mother Annella (Amira Casar). They live in a beautiful old house set among an orchard of apricots and near the local river, the kind of place that no sane person would ever refuse an invitation too. Elio’s father is an academic, who we will pretend for a moment can actually afford this summer house, who every year invites a graduate student to come and visit and help him catalogue his work. Well, this year the graduate student is Oliver (Armie Hammer) and American who makes waves in the small Italian town from the moment he arrives in his short shorts, proving that Armie Hammer is at least 50% legs. For better or worse, Elio and Oliver are sort of forced together as Elio becomes his guide across the summer, but maybe it could be more than that.
For me one of the areas where Call Me By Your Name really excelled was in the production of the film, simply I think everyone can agree that this is a beautifully shot film. Ok yes, it helps that you are making your film in one of the most beautiful locations on Earth and that you can use building that looks old because it is old and that is something you just can’t replicate on a sound stage very well. However, it does not matter if you are filming in a good location if you can’t capture its beauty through the lens. The way the director Luca Guadagnino and the cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom used the lens to frame each scene, was careful and considerate and made the most of every location, capturing the alienation, the intimacy, and the joy. Add to this, a wonderful edit that knows when to cut quickly and when to hold that long shot as they ride off into the sunset, or like the next field. Now, of course, I could get picky about the digitally inserted cigarettes, and little things like that but none of that detracts from the really amazing job they have done recreating this world, down to the faded election posters on noticeboards. Also, I loved the musical score for the film, that focused nearly entirely on just the piano, which gave Call Me By Your Name a really distinctive style and reinforced Elio’s character.
Now, this leads us to the story which there were aspects of which I really liked, and parts that I didn’t quite jell with, and of course as it is the story there will be [SPOILERS] ahead. There is so much symbolism in this film, which on the one hand creates layers here that wouldn’t be there naturally, but then it also is the case that if you miss something it can easily lead to you misreading a situation or getting confused about certain queues. As well as this, they are trying to cover a lot of ground and there are things like some Jewish iconography that is sort of waved away, that I wish they had explored a bit more. However, there are a lot of really interesting themes at play here, the interplay of love and lust, how people can blur together when they enter into a new relationship, or how societal pressure can force you to act in certain predetermined roles but that might not be how you want to be.
All of this leads to some truly amazing performances by the two leads Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as their lives slowly entwine on screen. Indeed, it is these performances that make the film for me, they are fascinating and provocative, and they deserve all the accolades that they are getting at the moment. However, there were somethings that felt odd for me that did kind of pull me out of the narrative in places. Now I have not read the source book so I can’t tell you if this is an issue with the adaption or the source material, but either way, they didn’t work for me. First, was the apricot scene, which looks I know what it was trying to convey but it wasn’t really necessary and it went on far too long. As well as this, and look this might just be my old curmudgeon self showing through, but ok it was weird that they were calling each other by their own name, and yes I know this is literally the title of the film, but it still felt odd. Also, it did feel like the film went own a bit too long, there was a strong ending spot and I think it would have worked better to end there. But of course, none of these issues matters because at the very end of the film Timothée Chalamet gives what could be one of the best acting performances I have seen in a very long time. The full range of emotions he goes through whilst the camera is rolling in real time was amazing to watch and if this is him now, well look out the world of film because Timothée Chalamet is going to be a force to reckon with going forward.
So in the end, do we recommend Call Me By Your Name? Well, it depends on what aspects of a film really connects with you. I loved the production and the acting, but was not completely sold on the story, and if the story is everything to you that could be an issue. However, you might have loved the story and thus this will likely end of on your top 10 films list, this is the subjective nature of film.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Call Me by Your Name
Directed by – Luca Guadagnino
Screenplay by – James Ivory
Based on – Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Music by – Sufjan Stevens
Cinematography by – Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
Edited by – Walter Fasano
Starring – Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois, Vanda Capriolo, Antonio Rimold, André Aciman & Peter Spears
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: 12; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R