DIR: Luca Guadagnino• WRI: James Ivory • PRO: Emilie Georges, Luca Guadagnino, James Ivory, Marco Morabito, Howard Rosenman, Peter Spears, Rodrigo Teixeira • DOP: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom • ED: Walter Fasano • DES: Samuel Deshors • CAST: Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg
Movies rarely come more sensual and intoxicating than Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) and written by James Ivory (Remains of the Day). Set in the 1980s, rising star Timothee Chalamet plays Elio, a 17-year-old American-Italian living in North Italy as his academic father (Michael Stuhlbarg) works on a project focused on the sensuality of Ancient Roman statues. When a 24-year-old protegee of his dad, Oliver (the always great Armie Hammer), comes to stay for the summer, it awakens confusing feelings of desire in Elio. Through look and touch, Oliver and Elio begin to develop a relationship over the season.
Call Me by Your Name has an amazingly tactile presence. Hammer and Chalamet give both soulful and physical performances. In the early portions of the drama where the two are struggling to cope with their feelings for each other – both being deliberately standoffish – they still manage to convey through subtle glance and stolen touch a live-wire spark of chemistry. They naturally inject a jolt of energy into what could have been a slow-burn first half through sheer charisma alone.
Meanwhile, when things do become more intimate, there is a blend of authenticity but also bewitching romance. Sufjan Stevens provides the soundtrack, giving the film a delicate but brittle quality – perfect for Elio and Oliver’s tentative bond. Meanwhile, Guadagnino clearly has an eye for scenic locations as this film will make one want to move to sun-drenched Italy to eat apricots and read Antonia Pozzi poems relaxing by a lake.
Adding to the tactile quality of the film is the fact that despite how heavenly the setting is and how achingly romantic, there are little moments that ring true. A brief but important example is a scene in which Elio is seen reading a Penguin Books copy of Heart of Darkness. As he is reading, the novel falls apart in his hands, something anyone who has bought that particular brand of book in a charity shop can relate to.
At 130 minutes, the film can occasionally feel a little rambling. However, I’d argue that is to Guadagnino’s strength as he has created a movie that vividly captures the feeling of a long summer. Also, just when one thinks the director may be wasting the great talents of Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire, A Serious Man), the actor gets to deliver one of the most beautifully written monologues I’ve ever seen in a film. In five minutes, the combination of the speech and delivery fills a fairly background character with such incredible depth. Yet, it’s just one of many beautiful moments one will want to re-visit in Call Me by Your Name, a work as heart-warming as it is gorgeous.
15A (See IFCO for details)
Call Me by Your Name is released 27th October 2017