Movie Review: “Call Me By Your Name” is a Rapturous Love Story with the Best Performances of the Year

Call Me By Your Name is a cinematic day in the sun by the pool. Shot on 35mm film the sexy, hazy scenery of Northern Italy becomes a dreamy playground for an unexpected, honest and passionate love story with two of this year’s best performances by Armie Hammer (Oliver) and Timothée Chalamet (Elio).

Ideas, dreams, passions laid bare before you. Do you bite into them when your opportunity arises? Do you speak? Will you recognize the rare power of a true connection? Or will you be shackled by conventions, by logic and fear and allow such fleeting meteoric desires to slip through your fingers? These are choices that form and shape our lives – if we are lucky enough to find even a few such moments throughout an entire lifetime.

Elio lives a lush and comfortable existence on his parent’s estate in Italy. His life is comprised of books, bike rides and volleyball games, nighttime swims in the local waterways and nightclub dances til dawn. There are maids to shake out the sun-bleached sheets and ripe fruit hanging in the yard to bite into as the fresh juices spill down his cheeks. He is 17 and seeking all the experiences that life has to offer.

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Enter Oliver, his family’s summer guest. Each year Elio’s parent’s offer their home and counsel to a writer who is nearing publication. Oliver is Helios incarnate, all skin, and health, and swagger and sun. Elio finds himself begrudgingly obsessed with Oliver and thus they begin a pulling in and reeling out flirtation that is both exhausting and exhilarating for the young man.

Theirs is not a boozy one-night stand or convenient hook-up but a deeply seeded soul seeing soul connection that one enters knowing they are star-crossed lovers with no hope of a long-term future. The deliciousness of the raw passion, trust, and contact of such an experience can resonate through one’s soul and teach what F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.”

Multiple Academy Award winner James Ivory has lovingly adapted the book by André Aciman. The script remains diligently true to the original text, so much so that several scenes use exact dialog. The rich text is enriched by the masterful visuals which are chock-full of nods to the classical art and literature that is referenced throughout. The soundtrack is a mix of classical music and original odes by Sufjan Stevens including his trance-inducing song Mystery of Love.

“I may have come close, but I never had what you had. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business. But remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once.” – from the book, Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Armie Hammer sears the screen with his Greek God-like portrayal of Oliver. He is simply breathtaking and embodies the physical and intellectual power of Oliver with comfort and humor. Timothée Chalamet manages the angst, confusion, drives and desires of his Elio as if he were an actor twice his age. Although there are dozens of memorable moments in the film the very last one (which I will not explain in an attempt to keep this review spoiler free) is one of the best segments of cinema this year. Michael Stuhlbarg (Mr. Perlman) also gives a stand out performance with an impressive final monologue (partially quoted above)

Call Me By Your Name is undeniably one of the best films of the year and perhaps one of the best films about gay love to be given such a wide release. It is so deliciously non-Hollywood that its appeal may be lost for many people, but for those of us who crave this level of high-quality cinema which stimulates the heart and mind it is an elegiac gift to the mystery of love.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Director: Luca Guadagino
Writers: James Ivory, Andre Aciman, Michael Stuhlbarg
Starring: Armie Hammer Timothee Chalamet,
Runtime: 132 minutes
Release date: November 24, 2017
MPAA rating: R

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