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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

"Call Me By Your Name" Review

There’s the old saying “The third time's the charm.” Most directors figure themselves out or make their best film on the third try. Steven Spielberg (Jaws), Martin Scorsese (Mean Streets), and Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) are some of the names on this list. After premiering his third feature film, Call Me by Your Name, at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, director Luca Guadagnino unfortunately doesn’t get access to this prestigious club.

Set in northern Italy during the summer of 1983, 17-year-old Elio Perlman goes through the days with nothing to do except playing piano, swimming, and reading. One day, a grad student by the name of Oliver comes to the house for a summer study abroad with Elio’s father, who is an esteemed professor of Greco-Roman art and sculpture. At first, Oliver and Elio are two completely different people that can’t seem to figure each other out. Both their physical bodies (Oliver strong and tall, while Elio skinny and pale) and ways of thinking (Oliver has confidence, Elio sticks to himself) are different, which leads both of them to be wildly curious about the other. This curiosity sparks a wide range feelings, eventually leading to an intimate relationship that makes them question and explore their sexual identities.

The chemistry between the two leads is off the charts. Chalamet and Hammer excellently play off each other and keep every scene feeling natural. Director Luca Guadagnino patiently plays out their relationship throughout the whole summer, letting us soak up every detail of the Italian countryside and the lives inhabiting it.

While slow and long stories usually bring out high emotions, this one failed to do that. The slow build up of rising actions drag the emotional weight down and make the final resolution fall flat and feel disappointing. The 130-minute runtime feels much longer as we painstakingly watch for the first two thirds as the leads contemplate the choices they are about to make. The emotional peak and my patience had worn thin at the point when they make their decision.

Guadagnino specializes in slow films that explore character’s hidden wants and needs. He did this in 2015 with A Bigger Splash, which garnered fairly positive reviews from critics and mixed from audiences. He’s definitely an expert on shooting in Italy, as this is his third consecutive film to be set in the country. His eye for breathtaking visuals is apparent in this film. The villa and the surrounding farmlands are shot beautifully and lend to a feeling of openness that the characters inhabit between each other. Guadagnino also uses the land as a way to get the characters to interact with each other. Whether it be bike riding or swimming, the earth offers many opportunities for the characters to spend time and learn about each other.

The film also uses a couple songs from independent musician Sufjan Stevens. Each one brilliantly encompasses the setting and events that unfold throughout. “Mystery of Love” is an absolute must listen as it flows like a summer breeze and quietly symbolizes the emotional fight each character carries.

Each actor holds their own and translates the heavy material from the page to the screen. Newcomer Timothée Chalamet has a bright future ahead of him as he brilliantly plays a young adult experiencing a period in time where is uncertain of what he feels. He plays Elio as both intelligent for his age and challenged by what is going on around him with the arrival of Oliver.

Armie Hammer gives probably his best performance yet as a character that can best be described as the perfect American hunk. He has the looks to get all the girls, but something inside of him lures him towards Elio even though it is against everything he’s been taught and done. Hammer has the confidence of a beautiful man, but also the insecurity of someone who is experiencing love for the first time and doesn’t know what to feel. The similarities between Chalamet and Hammer’s performance is what connects their characters so tightly and make them so engaging to watch when they are on screen together.

Michael Stuhlbarg also knocks it out of the park as the studious and caring father of Elio. He’s always reaching out to his son to offer advice and support, but also wanting Elio to figure things out on his own. He caps off the film with an impressive monologue that ties everything up to an emotional close.

It’s a shame that a film like this one can have everything going for it except for the main plot. The great acting and gorgeous cinematography couldn’t hold on to my interest long enough to warrant a reaction by the end. Just like a hot, lazy summer abroad, I just wanted it to end so I could go back home.


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