Call Me by Your NameBerlin Film Festival 2017
Elio has resigned himself to another long, hot, vaguely boring summer in Italy with his parents. Oliver, an older research student, arrives to help Elio’s father with his work, and an unfamiliar passion begins to brew.
It’s irrelevant that Call Me by Your Name is a gay love story. It would still have the same potency if it was about heterosexual love, perhaps meaning that this will be a gay love story that is accessible to a wider audience. Such stories are disproportionately represented in cinema, seen as a niche market and served by low-budget, shoddily cobbled together films that rarely see the inside of a cinema. Such movies generally pander to their intended audience, meaning that there’s often gratuitous full frontal male nudity by the third page of the script. The love scenes in Call Me by Your Name are erotic without being gratuitous, and are unlikely to be too confronting to anyone other than the most puritanical of audiences (who are unlikely to see it anyway).
Director Luca Guadagnino continues with his already established visual palette. Incidental shots are composed like paintings, and there’s a barely perceptible desaturation of colours. These subdued tones actually heighten the brightness of the piece, emphasising the warm and long summer that the narrative takes place over. The fact that the story doesn’t have a clearly defined setting works in its favour. A title card states that the film is set “somewhere in northern Italy, 1983” and it’s more that this is something that could happen anytime, anywhere. A somewhat exotic locale perhaps helps with the romanticism of what the two lovers are experiencing, but it’s hardly essential. In fact, the region of Italy where the piece is set is rarely revealed in wide shots.
As the cocky, though polite, Oliver, Armie Hammer is excellent, although his presence is more of a catalyst for the awakening of Elio. Timothée Chalamet is astonishingly good, delivering a naturalistic performance as he quickly matures despite retaining his teenage sensibilities. When he acknowledges what he wants from Oliver, Elio’s attempt at seduction is more of a mauling. But of course, Oliver is just a summer guest, and soon enough the two lovers must say goodbye. Nowadays, you would simply add someone on social media and then be subjected to a succession of photos of meals they’re about to eat. Perhaps saying goodbye meant more in the 80s. Call Me by Your Name is stunning.
Call Me by Your Name does not have a UK release date yet.
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