Film displays exceptional storyline, score
Set in the countryside of a sun-drenched 1983 Italy, Luca Guadagnino’s masterwork film, Call Me By Your Name, is a revelation in cinematography and acting, rich in tone and tenderness. It’s rightfully garnered awards season buzz, landing four Oscar nods from Best Actor to Best Picture. Although the techniques are mastered, the raw performances of its leads transcend any preconception of what a love-and-coming-of-age-story really is.
17-year old Elio Perlman, played by Timothée Chalamet, spends his summer days lazily transcribing music and swimming in the sun, proving himself somewhat of a reserved but precocious prodigy alongside his father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, a cultural professor conducting research at their 17th-century Italian Villa.
When the tall and handsome Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, arrives as a graduate student assisting Mr. Perlman in research for the summer, the worlds of Elio and Oliver begin to draw inescapably closer. This is where the film so easily could fall into a predictable rhythm, but doesn’t—Guadagnino and Chalamet make sure of it.
Elio is at once knowledgeable and insightful, exhibiting a complex worldview well beyond his years (no matter how much he denies it). Chalamet’s nuanced performance lifts the character to new heights, each emotion exhibited in a daring performance of action expression. You can feel each of his struggles so viscerally; the tug and pull between what his mind wants and heart needs is illustrated in every minute detail. The star-making performance really calls for more than one watch. Such an honest portrait is mirrored in the supporting role of Oliver, the two’s chemistry so untouchably palpable with each passing scene that you begin to dread the end of the film as much as they do the end of the summer.
Guadagnino’s tactics are very direct here—in nearly every scene, there’s an instance of setting awareness. Melodic church bells chiming in the distance as Elio wanders the apricot orchards; cars rumbling along the streets of town as Elio and Oliver nearly yell at each other over the noise. By the end of the film, there’s such a vivid grasp on what it was like to live and love in Italy, it’s as if you were there yourself.
The soundtrack continues the incredible run of quality, helmed by three offerings of Sufjan Stevens (who himself was nominated for Best Original Song at the upcoming Academy Awards for “Mystery of Love”). The tender, and at times melancholy, instrumentals pair with a vibrant lyricism that calls back to the emotive Italy the film earnestly presents. It’s a seamless musical encapsulation of the complications that a love like Elio and Oliver’s faces, Stevens’ vocals working to devastating effect with each new listen.
The director carefully and fully presents the characters as destined, flawed, and honest all at once, focusing on the incredible performances by Chalamet and Hammer as it clumsily develops into a transcendent narrative that rejoices and strains with a passion that still resonates today. It’s done so well and honestly that it has the rare power to change the life of some of its viewers.
Call Me By Your Name affectionately captures what it means to wholeheartedly desire every part of another person, and the reality of what such a love means beyond the two who find themselves wrapped up in it. The final scenes of the film pack such raw, unflinching performances by Chalamet and Stuhlbarg, it’s practically impossible to forget what this film has to say, much less how they say it.