Sometimes the best films are the ones you don't expect to like or enjoy as much as you end up doing. I think I annoyed everyone with my gushing praise for Luca Guadagnino's latest film.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by André Aciman, the story takes place in the 80s over 6 weeks in the summer in Italy. Seventeen year old Elio spends his long summer days reading books, transcribing music, swimming in the river and waitin for summer to end. His father, a professor and mother invite a grad student each year to stay with them in their picturesque villa. Oliver, early twentives, radiates confidence arrives and captures Elio's attention. Over the summer together, they develop a passionate bond, exploring ther desire for one another but the summer has to end eventually.
Having seen Guadagnino's previous film, A Bigger Splash, which was a simmering tale of lust between four people in the heat of Italian summer, I thought Call Me By Your Name would be similar but more innocent. Where the former became a strange tale and uncomfortable atmosphere, despite a great cast, the story was good not amazing. Where as the latter finds something playful in and exciting in the smallest of gestures and expressions. Both films have a sense of 'waiting' set against a beautiful background and lets face it, attractive cast. But Call Me By Your Name is a story about a different sort of desire.
At first it seems that Elio and Oliver don't get along but they are each curious by one another and subtly try to show the other, until Elio's impatience and eagerness to share his feelings break the barrier. Oliver tries to be more reserved despite, technically, making the first move. He says 'they've been good' meaning they haven't given into their desires yet and there is still time to hold back and pretend nothing happened. How they each deal with their feelings shows their ages, Elio, young and impulsive and Oliver slightly older but wary about what others will think. The heartbreaking scene at the end when Elio and his parents are back at their villa for Christmas and Oliver calls, knowing that they still feel the same way but Oliver due to obligation and most likely his father, can't stay true to himself, leading to Elio breaking down into tears as the credits roll. But hope is not lost, Elio is still young and has time to be who he wants to be and there is little but some hope in that. Another glimmer of hope is in the thoughtful poetic speech Elio's father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) says near the end as he comfort's his son. Its a speech that you'll hear about and its something you have to hear for yourself to grasp the intensity of Elio and Oliver's bond.
The two leads, Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, are beyond brilliant. The chemistry between is everything; beautiful, heartbreaking, lustful, innocent, everything the film explores. Special kudos to Chalamet who can speak French and learnt Italian as well as how to play the piano for the shoot. There was something so perfect about Hammer and Chalamet that, if you stripped the film back, its a simple story about love, without saying the word.
I feel like Call Me By Your Name is a film that needs a second watch, which I hope to when it goes in general release this month. A brilliant, heartfelt story with great cast wrapped in a place with an amazing view.