“Call Me by Your Name” is directed by Luca Guadagnino and stars Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film is based on the novel by André Aciman of the same name and is about a 17-year-old named Elio whose relationship with his father’s research assistant becomes very complex as he spends a summer in Italy with Elio’s family.
I have been incredibly excited to see this movie for months after all the praise it has received from various critics and film festivals. The trailer is beautiful, Hammer has consistently shown potential, and Chalamet appears to be the brightest upcoming star of the year, so I came in with extremely high expectations.
The performances in this movie are beyond exceptional from everyone involved, but Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer clearly standout in their major roles. As Elio and Oliver, the two have superb chemistry and make this challenging and unique subject matter feel beautiful and real throughout every single scene. Chalamet in the lead masters the subtleties of the role, and is able to say a lot with very few words through potent facial expressions and very smart body language, and the nuance of his take on the role was what made Elio work so well in the film. Hammer does much of the same with his performance as Oliver, but Hammer completely buys into his role and plays off Chalamet with ease, which creates some stunningly powerful results.
Michael Stuhlbarg plays a much more minor role in the film as Elio’s father, but he is great throughout, and easily has the standout scene of the entire movie. It involves spoilers so I’ll keep it general, but the way Stuhlbarg runs through this monologue he gives is impactful, chilling, and absolutely beautiful, and there are not many actors who could have pulled it off with such exceptional delivery and care as Stuhlbarg did in this movie.
The performances are phenomenal on their own, but matching that with the direction by Luca Guadagnino, and they become even stronger. Guadagnino grounds this story that could easily have felt overly cinematic, and he makes these characters all feel like a breath of fresh air who completely avoid clichés and tropes that have been seen far too often. Elio and Oliver are each full of life and wonder, and, even with minimalistic dialogue, there is always so much to capture from each scene about these characters, and Guadagnino really makes it all work and creates a movie that feels genuinely real, which makes the themes and the story all the more powerful.
This realistic feel causes a lot of the movie to feel like a slow burn, but I believe that this move fits this film’s themes perfectly. By making these characters and dynamics move slowly forward, while consistently also playing into issues and regressions, it makes the payoffs huge every time, and it creates absolutely fantastic moments in even the smallest things. The screenplay by James Ivory is a major help to this, but I have to once again praise Chalamet and Hammer, who make the small moments feel grand, which helps create fully realized characters who I genuinely felt for and understood as they go down this unexpected journey.
This is a beautiful movie, not only in its impressive handling of important themes, but also with the cinematography and score. Sayombhu Mukdeeprom handles the camera work, and his ability to combine the beautiful Italian backdrop with the potent and real emotion coming from the leads was impressive from start to finish, and helped make all of those small moments come together beautifully. Acclaimed artist Sufjan Stevens creates one of the most powerful songs in film this year with “Mystery of Love,” which perfectly encapsulates the major themes of the entire film, and the score surrounding this song is equally great at setting the mood and adding to the impressive visuals.
Even with all of these gorgeous elements that make the movie so stunning to watch, the film consistently amazed me by how much it felt real. Elio and Oliver go through a lot of ups and downs throughout the movie, each of which seemed genuine and unexpected for a movie with this sort of subject matter. Watching Elio struggle, succeed, and everything between was truly gripping to watch, and while Guadagnino and Ivory did a hell of a lot to help that, it all fell on Chalamet to deliver, and he did that tenfold.
These wonderful components lead to an ending that was, once again, surprising and something that left an impact deep in my soul. Without spoiling, the final moments of this film are memorable for all the right reasons, and the final shot will probably remain one of my favorite final shots of all-time.
There are a few scenes, and when I say a few I mean three or four max, that I don’t think needed to be included, or could have had a stronger point to them. It’s not to say these are bad scenes whatsoever, but there are a couple of moments that I thought were going to leave more of an impact on me, but they ended up being relatively simple and non-impactful.
There’s a word I simply could not stop using when describing “Call Me by Your Name,” no matter what the context is: beautiful. This is beautiful cinema at its’ finest, and Luca Guadagnino’s stunning direction is a major reason why. Still, it is Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg that I will continue to praise to the heavens for their risky, but powerful performances, and they combine to make not only one of the best movies of the year, but one of the most important. This is a film that takes risks and one that never plays it safe regardless of the subject matter, and a movie that you should not miss. “Call Me by Your Name” is a significant and outstanding film, and one that deserves a place among the year’s best.
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