CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (2017): An Intimate Story of Love

Call Me by Your Name

Several hours before the new year’s eve of 2018, I want to share with you a film that really struck me right in the heart when I first saw it several weeks ago. This one’s easily becomes one of my favorite films of the year, and most of the time, when I talk about my favorite films, I refer to those that feel personal or relate to me in reality. This one is not necessarily like that; although may I say I wish I could feel what the characters in this film feel, in one way or another, in real life. This film, called “Call Me by Your Name”, is a queer coming-of-age film that remarkably captured the beautiful complexity of identity-searching of the youth and then transferred the emotional nuance in the process with such an empathetical, intimate style.

Adapted from a novel of the same name by André Aciman, “Call Me by Your Name” tells a story of a romantic relationship between a 17-year-old boy living in Italy named Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet) and a 24-year-old American scholar named Oliver (played by Armie Hammer). They first met when Oliver was invited by Elio’s father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg), who is a professor of archaeology, to stay in their house in Italy for the summer to help him on his academic paperworks. At first, there was little in common between Elio and Oliver: Elio is more of an introverted boy who spends most of his time reading and scribing musical notes, while Oliver is a free, charming guy who doesn’t seem to mind what other people think. But as the summer went on, they started to know more about themselves and the interaction between them emerged into an unexpected love affair.

Call Me by Your Name

First of all, I think you should know that maybe I have a soft spot for queer cinema. I don’t mean to be biased, but queer cinema (like certain other subgenres) feels like half documentary for me. I think there is a huge Freudian insight that leads us to learn deeply about humans as biological creatures, as we see how they feel and show themselves to other people when they are forced to supress their feelings and desires. Gratefully, we have many stories about this that have been and are being told so beautifully and artistically in the form of movies. Of course we know the marvelous “Brokeback Mountain”, which is one of my favorites, and last year we had “Moonlight” while the previous year there was “Carol”. They were all each telling the same topic in their own specific ways.

In case of “Call Me by Your Name”, one thing I found special is how young people are characterized in this film. Director Luca Guadagnino, based on the script by James Ivory, painted a very strong cultural background of Italy on summer days with musics, parties, volleyball match, bikes, and many other things. There is a sense of openness that brings sensuality and intimacy in the way young people behaved and interacted to each other, either as lovebirds or friends. I don’t know if this is a common thing in western culture, but there is this scene that really caught my attention when Elio told his father in front of Oliver that he almost had sex with his girlfriend the other night (perhaps to brag about it to Oliver), and his father just replied why didn’t he actually do so. A very open conversation like this became a platform for viewers to get along with the dynamics between Elio and Oliver, especially for Elio who seemed more uncertain about his true self within.

Call Me by Your Name

This process of knowing one’s true self is perhaps a common thing to find especially in a coming-of-age film. In “Call Me by Your Name”, cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom captures the detailed body gestures and dialogues of our lead characters under vibrant colors from his unstaged, unguarded camera views. I think there is such a complexity that hides within what was physically shown on the screen, and just for that matter, I think this is a great film to rewatch because we will find there is more and more to dig in and to discuss about. What used to be thought as just a one-shoot feeling between Elio and Oliver has then expanded into a romantic affection that transcended human curiosity and desires. The process is just so masterfully told in a way that I think makes us reluctant to judge and take sides.

The complexity of this process will never be so emotionally and empathetically delivered to us viewers if not because of the incredible performances by the cast. Timothée Chalamet has so convincingly proven that he deserves to be acknowledged as a serious contender for the best actor race this year. Really, guys. I thought this year saw a good chance for Gary Oldman to finally win an Oscar for his performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour”, because although I haven’t seen the film, I used to think he deserves to win since he has been so long overdued. However, now that I saw Chalamet in “Call Me by Your Name”, I just really want him to win like every award there is this year. His acting performance is so raw and charismatic, showing just the right amount of fragility and confusion any boys would feel when facing such an unexpected romance. On the other side, Armie Hammer succeeds in becoming a character that mirrors and extrapolates Elio’s affections to him, and we can see a progression on how Oliver reacts to Elio since they realized their feelings. A special shoutout from me is given to Michael Stuhlbarg, who has always been a kind of under-the-radar actor in great movies for years. With “Call Me by Your Name”, especially with that thoughtful speech he did in the last scenes, he just made for the best dad-figure-in-film of the year.

Call Me by Your Name

One more thing to highlight is the songs “Mystery of Love” and “Visions of Gideon” by Sufjan Stevens, that seem absent in any best song awards this year even though successfully enwrapped the abundance of pain and joy of love. These songs, with the great cast, script, and direction, has altogether made “Call Me by Your Name” such an achievement in filmmaking. I just love this film. So much. And I think it deserves all those accolades it keeps earning right now, not because it simply highlights a current social issue, but because it is a form of delicate cinematic experience about love that anyone can taste in spite of cultural backgrounds or personal preferences.


Call Me by Your Name

4.5 out of 5 stars

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
2017 / Drama, Romance / 132 min / R

cast: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, et al.

screenplay by James Ivory
based on the novel of the same name by André Aciman
directed by Luca Guadagnino


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