BFI London Film Festival: Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name
Call Me By Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel and Victoire Du Bois
Screening at LFF October 9th, 10th, 11th, 2017

by Joanna Orland

In 1983, 17-year-old Elio Perlman is living the charmed life alongside his parents as they spend their summers and Christmases in a picturesque region of Italy. A family of intellects who fluidly manoeuvre between the use of French, Italian and English; Elio’s father is a professor of archaeology and art history, his mother an aficionado of German poetry, and Elio himself spends his spare time transcribing classical piano scores. Every summer, the family host one of professor Perlman’s students at their idyllic villa, to assist him in his research. 1983 is the year of Oliver.

At first, Elio (Chalamet) is at odds with Oliver – he finds him peculiar and annoying, and even makes fun of him to his parents. As Oliver’s six weeks with the family progress, the nature of their relationship gradually evolves; first into friendship, followed by courtship. Call Me By Your Name is not a love story in the grand sense, but a portrait of first love and summer romance – Elio and Oliver are quite different men, Elio more of a boy; both are on different paths in life. That does not mean that their love is not real, but merely destined to be short-lived, and there is something rather beautiful in that.

Based on Andre Aciman’s novel of the same name, Call Me By Your Name strays from its source material by setting itself in its present time, rather than flashing back as a memoir. By putting the story in the now, Guadagnino removed Elio’s narration, but found a very interesting replacement to fill the void – Sufjan Stevens’ soundtrack. Sufjan’s lyrical and melodic contributions sit superbly atop the film to add a poetic layer of commentary.

As the romantic developments are rather naturalistic in pace, much time is spent watching Elio and Oliver swimming, cycling, playing music, eating apricots, doing other things to apricots, and just taking their time ‘being’ in a beautifully scenic Italy. Locations in Lombardy are depicted nearly as sensually on screen as tender love scenes between Elio and Oliver. Guadagnino has an eye for portraying passion on screen in every aspect of his films.

While passionate, seductive and sensual, Call Me By Your Name is a bit of a slow burner as the relationship between Elio and Oliver develops at this believable pace. Towards the end of the film is where most of its heart lies – in the couple’s reflection of their summer love, and particularly in an exchange between Elio and his father (Stuhlbarg). Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a beautiful monologue to Elio to ease his son’s broken heart after Oliver’s departure. This is surely one of the most honest and affectionate exchanges between father and son in cinema.

An elegant and passionate portrayal of young love, Call Me By Your Name captures romance, seduction and raw teenage emotion. Timothy Chalamet and Armie Hammer are captivating as is every beautiful shot by Luca Guadagnino.



 

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