Call me by your name, Luca Guadagnino’s sensual and passionate coming-of-age love story is engulfed with the bittersweet summer of love and the passion that cannot be contained. Set in Northern Italy in the 1983, the film is based on Andre Aciman’s novel and features Elio, a 17 year old boy who grapples with his complicated feelings for his father’s student, Oliver. Call Me By Your Name bears a certain style that swathes you with the sweet notes of first love but, at times, veers off into something less organic and more sappy. Scenes which depict Elio’s (Timothee Chalamet) loneliness and internal struggle often connects and yet often becomes more brooding than it needs to be. I don’t really agree with the hype on the film but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t good. I just don’t think it’s that great.
Armie Hammer’s conflicted and charismatic duality was pretty intriguing for me. I thought both Timothee Chalamet and Hammer’s chemistry worked really well and was crucial in portraying the natural connection between the two characters and to dispel the wrong kind of impression that could have arisen. The subject of the appropriateness of Elio and Oliver’s relationship could have unfairly derailed the film had Guadagnino not found the right chemistry and tone between the actors. Their beautiful performances eased us into the bittersweet notes of first love and pure romance and did not, even for a second, veer off into the uncomfortable. For this alone, I admire Call Me By Your Name’s ability to stay true to the novel’s roots and, in turn, stay true to the characters that it portrays.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I won’t go so far to say Call Me By Your Name’s style was my ‘poison’. I just thought it was sometimes beautiful and sometimes a little too sappy that hindered a good film from being even greater. Firstly, I thought it languished in alot of alone-time internal dilemma. I get that Elio’s teenage insecurity is something that dominates the better part of most teenager’s lives. That sense of loneliness and the yearning for isolated solace is real. But visually, the scenes dedicated to Elio agonizing and fretting and mulling over things become repetitive and frustrating. While private tension gives a personal effect, I thought a shift in focus to the public tension was far more interesting and should have been explored greater. Scenes which involved Elio, Oliver and other people fascinated me the most because we see how both protagonists negotiated their private feelings and desires whilst keeping their deeply rooted passion in secrecy and away from judgement.
Artfully crafted in every way, Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful film that stays steadfast to it’s main theme of the experience of first love in all its joy and heartbreak. I’m not sure I totally connected to Elio’s character as I did with Chiron in last year’s gay drama, Moonlight. Still, Call Me By Your Name is a film with a clear, singular vision. Powerfully acted, the sexual tension and first-love complications are universal themes that characterize our younger selves. I thought it languished in certain feelings and became quite sappy but that should not take away from the film’s powerful depiction of love found and love lost.