I only took 3 months of elementary Italian so bear with me. I’m knocking out movies left and right as of late so last night, I saw Call Me By Your Name. I remember reading about the positive reception it received at Sundance 2017 so it was definitely on my radar. Almost a year later, the movie has (slowly) hit the theaters these past couple of weeks. From what I read beforehand, the movie was a critical darling with positive reviews left and right. It’s also an awards season contender in major categories such as Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Adapted Screenplay.
What did I think of it? Let’s find out.
WARNING: This review will contain some spoilers. After you watch the trailer below, scroll at your own risk.
Synopsis – Based on the 2007 novel of the same name, in Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.
– Right off the bat, two things stand out: the scenery and the music. If you have never been Italy, I suggest you put that on your bucket list. I was fortunate enough to study abroad in Florence so I got a small taste of what this beautiful country has to offer. The Italian countryside is on full display throughout the movie, from the magnificent villa to the small town and its surroundings. I describe it as a Love Letter To Italy. Cheesy analogy time: If the Italian countryside was peanut butter, then the music was jelly. I hate myself for saying that, but it’s true. From piano symphonies to the electronic sounds of the 80s, the music only enhanced this love letter. The movie made the audience appreciate the sights and sounds of Italy and in my case, looking up flights to travel across the pond.
– One of my initial thoughts that I mentioned to my friend was the pacing of the movie. I said to him that “this movie was well-paced.” The relationship between Elio and Oliver did not feel rushed. Each scene built up the attraction between the two. It left the audience wondering when the relationship would turn the two from friends to lovers.
– Acting was top notch. The top 3 performances, in order from 1st to 3rd, were: Timothée Chalamet (Elio), Armie Hammer (Oliver), and Michael Stuhlbarg (Mr. Perlman). Let’s start with Stuhlbarg, who played Elio’s father. I enjoyed Stuhlbarg’s performance as the caring father and that sentiment was on full display in his monologue at the end of the movie about acceptance. At a time when being gay was not always accepted (Hammer’s character said his father would have sent him to the ward if he found out about his relationship with Elio), Stulhbarg delivers a caring and passionate speech about acceptance. For 1983, Mr. Perlman was ahead of his time. He tells Elio that what he and Oliver had was special and that he should find pleasure in his grief. Not only did Luca Guadagnino direct this love letter to Italy, but it was a love letter towards acceptance as a person. Stuhlbarg even got some praise from Frank Ocean.
Critics seemed to position Stuhlbarg as a favorite for a supporting acting nomination, but I would put my eggs in Armie Hammer’s basket. His carefree, arrogant American persona provided the spark to ignite Elio’s true feelings on sexuality. Hammer played hard to get and as a viewer, you were intrigued to see if he would finally give into Elio’s feelings. That being said, this movie belongs to Chalamet. The breakout star reminded viewers of what it’s like to be 17 again during the summer. Sexual frustration, first love, young romance, how to win someone over, being a kid in the summer, etc. Gay or straight, everyone person goes through these thoughts growing up as a teenager. These were all themes that Chalamet brought to life pretty accurately. For actors that met only a few weeks before production began, the chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer was excellent. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying Timmy is a lock for a Best Acting nomination at the Oscars. Bright future for the 22 year old.
– The Peach scene. It’s definitely going to stir up a conversation. It’s kind’ve nasty, but I get the thought process behind it. Definitely a “it goes there” type of moment.
– I actually preferred the cat and mouse game between Chalamet and Hammer as opposed to the actual relationship. It kind’ve reflects my attitude of “the thrill of chase is sometimes more fun than the relationship.” I think I was expecting more of a climatic moment when Elio and Oliver went from friends to lovers so to just get a meeting at midnight outside their bedroom was a bit of letdown for me. It did not hold the same significance to me as their encounter in Elio’s secret spot or their final goodbye in Bergamo.
Final Thoughts: This was a nice, well-paced movie that highlighted growing up and acceptance. I loved the scenic views of Italy and music to compliment the vibrant mood. Very well acted, lead by Chalamet, Hammer, and Stuhlbarg. A new and enjoyable take on a love story. Who wants to spend a summer in Italy now?