Potentially the frontrunner for MIFF’s audience award, Call Me by Your Name seems to have enraptured the audience’s praise, likely helped along by director himself Luca Guadagnino appearing at the Festival. Is it worth the love?
Call Me by Your Name (2017) is a drama romance written by James Ivory and directed by Luca Guadagnino. It stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio, an Italian-American living in Northern Italy in the summer of 1983 when he slowly begins to fall for a a cocky and aloof American student named Oliver (Armie Hammer) who has come to live with his family over the season.
This has to be one of the most curious and satisfying depictions of an on-screen romance in a very long time. While far from my genre of choice, what the entire cast and crew have managed to create on screen is exceptional in its emotion, authenticity and overall impact. The two leads Chalamet and Hammer are two of the key reasons for this success, although they are lifted aloft by both the script and direction as well. Hammer in particular is a standout simply because this is a side I’ve yet seen from him – considering his usual preference towards failed action franchises, Oliver allows his easy-going charm and cocky likability to shine through in the best way possible. Chalamet is equally as solid as Elio, especially considering most of the movie rests on his young shoulders – a burden Chalamet lifts high with the utmost of determination to the point its impossible not to see his natural talent shining through.
As for the direction, Guadagnino has taken a naturalist, almost invisible approach in a similar method to Linklater’s superb Before trilogy. Preferring long takes, steady cameras and simply letting the actors act, Guadagnino may not draw attention to himself, but he is certainly one of the reasons the film is such a success. He also does a stellar job selling the setting – the northern Italian countryside feels oppressively hot and dry while at the same time being relaxed and inviting, and the overall environment really adds to the story being told here.
Interestingly enough, Guadagnino said in a Q&A that he didn’t set out to make a ‘rich people holidaying movie’. And while that is certainly the case, the pace and momentum of this film is going to make people feel like they’re on holiday – or long for a holiday. For the more drama inclined viewer, Call Me takes an incredibly mellow approach to storytelling, letting it slowly play out in a way that will almost certainly frustrate plenty of viewers. This isn’t to the movie’s detriment but is worth noting when trying to figure out of this film’s for you.
But overall, Call Me by Your Name has arisen as a real standout of MIFF 2017 and I’m incredibly curious to see how it fits into the pantheon of classic romances as the years go on. Lovers of forward momentum need not apply but for the rest, you’ll be uttering Call Me by Your Name for quite a while.
General Audiences: Not Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Arthousers: Highly Recommended