Oh and I will.
It’s the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. Most of the time, he spends his days reading, bathing in the oh hot sun, taking a trip around the city, and meeting all sorts of colorful and cool people. One such person he meets is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Immediately, Elio is attracted to Oliver, but he doesn’t know why, or how the hell it even happened. For all that he knows, he likes girls and even has a girlfriend who may, or may not, be totally in the picture. Either way, Elio tries to do whatever he can to reach out to Oliver, get his attention and hopefully, get him to fall for him right back. Elio possibly gets what he wants, but at the same time, also gets a lot more than he bargained for.
Call Me By Your Name is perhaps the most subtle movie I’ve seen in quite some time and I mean that as a total compliment. Director Luca Guadagnino and writer James Ivory seem to come together and compliment each other’s styles in that one knows how to tell the visual side of the story, whereas the other knows how to actually tell the story, but not too much. In other words, we get a lot of moments of pure, absolute silence, where instead of listening to characters jabber on and on, we actually just watch as they bike through a field, or walk side-by-side, or hell, even just a rare glimpse at the beautiful nature that surrounds these characters.
And you know what? These scenes speak louder than words themselves and it’s why Call Me By Your Name is a silent, but deadly revelation. It’s a slow-burn for sure that, on the surface, may seem like a conventional coming-of-ager about a boy growing up, realizing who he is, what he wants, and answering the age old question of what love feels like, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about family, history, architecture, and how all can come together in random ways to give us a clue of who the hell we are, why we are here, what our purpose is, and what’s next to come.
Sounds like a bit of a stretch, I know, but to watch how it all plays out, trust me, it somehow works like gangbusters.
And it’s why it’s hard to watch Call Me By Your Name and not get wrapped-up in all of the raw, heavy and honest emotions that the movie isn’t afraid to embrace. It’s a love story for sure, but it’s one of first love and how, often times, it’s the messiest, most awkward, and weirdest times in our lives; we don’t know what we’re doing, what we’re saying, or how we’re going to act next. But in a way, it’s a truly beautiful time that makes us feel even more human than ever before and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it’s why Guadagnino’s direction and Ivory’s script balance each other out so well – they both know what works in a small, yet powerful character-drama, and to have it speak volumes to all who see it. Some will obviously be turned-off, like certain celebrities, of how it’s a gay romance, featuring a 17-year-old-boy, but the movie breezes by that notion reminding you that, yes, it’s consensual, and also, in Italy, it’s legal. That’s neither here nor there, though, because the movie isn’t about what’s in good, or poor taste, as much as it’s about two men, finding one another, understanding each other, and above all else, falling in love, even if they sometimes have an awfully hard time of admitting it.
Oh, and the performances are pitch perfect, too.
For one, it’s great to finally see, after all of these years of me championing him as the “possibly next Johnny Depp”, Armie Hammer gets the role that’s most deserving of his charm, good-looks, chiseled-body, and overall atmosphere of general coolness. As Oliver, Hammer’s this tall hunk of a man that literally swarms over the movie, even when he’s not around; Elio is always thinking about him, his body, and his unabashed charisma and we can totally see why. Hammer’s not afraid to make this character a bit of a dork, but we sort of love him for that and we start to realize that no matter how much of a hard-front this character may put on, it’s all going to come crashing through sooner or later. And when it does, it’s a beautiful sight to witness, as it not only shows us that there’s more to this character than just good looks and a winning-personality, but a whole lot more range to Hammer himself.
But even better is Timothée Chalamet as Elio, one of the best coming-of-age performances in quite some time because, if anything, it just feels all too genuine. Though Chalamet is at least 21 or so in real-life, he feels like such a real kid that it’s not hard to despise him at first; he’s so insecure, so awkward, and so full-of-himself, it’s hard not to want to smack him in the face. Then, it’s easy to realize that he’s also a kid, trying to make sense of himself, and at that age, I think it’s safe to say that we were all like him, in one way or another. Regardless, Chalamet’s progression from being awkward and a little deuchy, to absolutely starstruck, head-over-heels, and at a total loss for words, is not only believable, but amazing to watch.
And together, there’s absolute fireworks between the two. There’s a real and true love between them both that goes from lust and admiration, to full-on, hot, sweaty, and emotional passion. It’s both sensual and beautiful and oh yeah, it makes it one of the best movies of the year. If not the best.
But hey, we’ll wait for that list until later.
Consensus: Both emotionally overbearing and powerfully subtle at the same time, Call Me By Your Name is the rare achievement in storytelling that transcends coming-of-age tropes with a genuine heart, emotion, and two of the finest performances of the year.
9 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classics