Call Me by Your Name - Movie Review

Call Me by Your Name - Movie Review

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Call Me By Your Name directed by Luca Gaudagnino and written by James Ivory, from the novel by Andre Aciman is one of the best reviewed films of the year, by both audiences and critics. In the end of year compilation by EW it is number one on its printed list and has a 96% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It was recently nominated for four Oscars including best picture, best screenplay and best actor for the brilliant, revelatory, Timothee Chalamat. As much as I hate to conform, I agree, the film is stunning.

Like all great art, it is difficult to describe its emotional impact and resonance until you feel it yourself.   Additionally, every viewer experience is unique to the viewer and open to individual interpretation. Still, great films usually have a universal appeal and human relatability.  Films are emotional. Part of this film’s power is its ability to unfold like a novel, you are deceptively pulled in and immersed in the story leisurely, so by the end you are very invested, without necessarily knowing why or how.

Set in Northern Italy in the 1983, Call Me by Your Name is a coming of age first love story with Elio (Chalamat) at the center.   Elio is not your average American teenager, he speaks French, Italian, and is also a classical pianist. His father is a renowned professor and is played by the remarkable Michael Stuhlbarg, his erudite mother (Amir Casar) is a translator. His sharp intellect and cool parents don’t shield Elio, who is seventeen, from teenage lust and the pain of first love and his life is turned upside down when his father’s handsome research intern, PHD candidate Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives for a six week stay. When Elio finds himself attracted to Oliver, it isn’t a matter of coming out or being gay, because Elio has dalliances with local girls as well, but it is a matter of being drawn to someone inexorably and intensely, and negotiating love’s perils. 

Hammer is perfect as the aloof, confident, but always polite Oliver.  He finds the vulnerability that everyone who is in the process of falling in love faces, and although the film is told from Eilio’s point of view Hammer brings depth to a character that could appear slick and glib in another actor’s hands. Youth is a time of intense emotions, and everything can feel like a huge thing, especially when you are falling in love.  A look, a moment, innocuous conversation all have weight when you are waiting for a sign that someone else feels the same. This film accomplishes this precarious youthful journey remarkably.  This is impressive, as the screenwriter was in his 80’s when he wrote it, and the director near 50 when he directed it. Still the film will evocatively transport you back to your experience of first love, creating tremendous empathy for your fictional counterparts on the screen.

Chalamet is brilliant and unforgettable as Eilo, there is a light inside him, and if the eyes are the windows to soul, you can see it all in his face. At 22 Chalamat is the youngest Oscar nominee for best actor in almost 80 years and he is the third youngest ever. The best actor Oscar nominees skew older, especially compared to best actress. Of the top ten youngest best actor Oscar winners only one winner received it while in his 20’s, compared to the top ten youngest best actress winners-they are all in their 20’s. Although Chalamet isn’t expected to win, (Gary Oldman is the favorite) perhaps the Academy is finally open to recognizing some younger actors.  In any event; his talent is undeniable.

There are no villains in Call Me by Your Name.  Nothing is black and white, there aren’t any answers, or condemnation for mistakes or praise for decisions; however there is a celebration of love, of youth, of the beauty of the moment, because unfortunately like the movie, youth must end and surprise, wonder and pleasure ebb as we grow older. Everything works together seamlessly in this fantastic collaboration of artists: the direction, the writing, the music, the cinematography, the acting, the editing, the costumes.   This film restores my hope in the art of filmmaking.

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