Film Review: Call Me by Your Name

First loves. They define us as human beings. They prepare us for the highs and lows of our short but eventful lives. Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) has managed to create a real piece of art with the cinema adaptation of Call Me by Your Name, the 2007 novel by André Aciman. Every aspect of this film is perfect, creating a modern classic that will be talked about for decades to come.

Call Me by Your Name, set in 1983, follows Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the son of an American professor, as he becomes infatuated with Oliver (Armie Hammer) a graduate student who comes to live with his family in northern Italy over the course of a summer. As the two grow closer they share unforgettable memories that will forever change their lives.

This film is beautiful. There is something so refreshing about seeing a love story unfold with no external forces to impact their feelings or cause doubt from fear. This is a coming-of-age story that allows the characters to develop within themselves, it’s about self-acceptance and the struggles of coming out from within rather than focusing on the world that surrounds.

If a film ever exemplified summer, this would be it. Guadagnino’s ability to capture life through his use of the dinner table and food in the Italian heat creates a basis for the characters to grow as a whole. Each meal a new starting point for relationships and story arcs. No shot is without purpose, everything from the scenes of Elio playing the piano to the local fisherman bringing in a new catch serves. Combined with the city of Crema, a protagonist in its own right, this picture breathes life. Leading to each outing with the two main characters creating a new pillar for their ever-growing relationship.

As a viewer, we see Elio coming to terms with new feelings that at first lie implicit. The use of sex is fundamental in portraying the emotions of the characters and means that Call Me by Your Name goes beyond sexuality, delving into a deep study of the physiological impulses we have as humans.

The cinematography is tied in with an original soundtrack from Sufjan Stevens. Using Stevens’ voice creates an added dimension to the heartbreak. His voice amplifies the soundtrack and resonates with emotion. ‘Love My Way’ by The Psychedelic Furs brings the 80s vibe and makes for a brilliant dance scene that captures the exhilarating joy and pain of first love.

Timothèe Chalamet captures the sheer essence of growing up and his portrayal of Elio combines the intelligence of the character effortlessly with his innocence. It is no surprise that Chalamet is set to appear in some big films going forward into 2018 (Ladybird, Hostiles). A real star in the making. Armie Hammer exudes confidence as Oliver, the American heartthrob adored by all in Crema. Oliver is slightly older than Elio and Hammer manages to exemplify this through his onscreen presence.

The supporting cast is strong too, Amira Casar as Elio’s mother is brilliant as the supportive mother with a backseat role. Michael Stuhlbarg has a stand out supporting role as Elio’s father, one that will most definitely see him receive an academy nomination. His performance is one for the ages; he never interferes, yet incubates his son’s curiosity. His performance comes to a head with a closing monologue about love and loss that is so beautifully raw; it might just be one of my favourite scenes ever.

It is easy to overpraise a film, to get caught up in the moment and forget about those that have set the foundations on which a genre is built. Call Me by Your Name is a very special piece of cinema that portrays love and heartbreak in a way that is seldom seen. This is a gay love story, yet it is also so much more. This is a love story for anyone that has ever felt love, ever longed for someone. It is one of these very special pieces of art that can create different personal meaning for each individual viewer, something that can’t be praised enough.

The essence of time and the inevitable end to the summer means that the film feels precious, like love itself, every second is worth savouring. It creates a time capsule in which we can look back at our past and reflect upon our present, few films allow us to feel real sentiment in this way. Call Me by Your Name is universally one of the greatest coming-of-age love stories ever created and it demands to be seen. Stay for the full runtime as the final scene, like the rest of the film, is a true masterstroke.

By John-Anthony Disotto