“But to make yourself feel nothing, as to not feel anything. what a waste”Review by Lewis Goodall
Call me by your names takes place in 1980’s Italy and follows Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17 year old in the midst of summer finding anything to pass the time, whether it be reading or playing classical music on the piano. Elio’s attention is drawn to his fathers new intern Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charismatic American who is helping Elio‘s father with his research. A relationship blossoms between the two as they both discover themselves through each other.
First off, Luca Guadagnino who directs the film; He should be employed by travel agents to create adverts to move to Italy because that’s exactly the effect this film had on me. Let’s talk about all the gay stuff in a minute because I want to talk about how Luca used every technique in the book to make such a beautiful film that made me wish I was there. It was such an incredible immersive experience that made me feel I was right there in the middle of the summer sun, acoustic guitar playing while I lay there among the apricot trees. But alas I was stuck in my room while it was too uncomfortably muggy to stay still. Everything displayed on the screen and pouring out the speakers was just incredibly beautiful. The music as well, composed by Sufjan Steven’s was just incredibly easy to listen to and I know I’ll be listening to it in the car to distract from the normal English weather and to draw me back to this Italian paradise.
Enough about how I now want to be Italian and back to the story. So as I mentioned it’s the story of Elio and Oliver who develop a friendship which grows to be more than that. The way they both play their roles sink you into their relationship and have you rooting for it every step of the way. Both of them have a clear connection from the get go when Oliver first arrives at the villa. Oliver stays in Elio‘s room while Elio stays in a bedroom next door, separated by a bathroom. As the story goes on you can see Elio fall for Oliver more and more purely through action and through his eyes which is a major credit to Timothée and his acting ability to really bring to life the saying “I wish someone would look at me the way Elio looks at Oliver”. Their relationship doesn’t come without its difficulties, an almost Romeo and Juliet, actually more appropriate Romeo and Romeo, forbidden love that they cant share with the world only has you rooting for them more. As barriers get but between them and decisions that they make to hide their secret only have you wanting to smash those barriers down.
The acting in general by everyone in the film is absolutely perfect, not once was I taken away by anyone’s performance which really helped with the immersion. The father to Elio (Michael Stuhlberg) has got to be by far my favourite character, although he wasn’t in it too much, he was just the perfect portrayal of a loving father, I’m glad they didn’t go with any cliche of he being a bad father so it was actually really refreshing seeing a father figure in a film be as sweet as he was.
Going back to the wonderful directing of this film, Luca manages to portray this gay relationship pretty much entirely through symbolism placed through the film. It didn’t rely on heavily pornographic scenes that most films like this would which really shows the power of the directing because it wasn’t just a story about a gay relationship, it was a story of love. Plus I’m glad there wasn’t any heavy pornographic scenes cause I felt it would’ve distracted from the overall tone of the film and quite frankly it would’ve been hard to explain if whilst I was watching it, someone walks in and there’s just a ballsack smacking the lens on the screen.
One example of this symbolism was that Elio‘s family and their friends are all standing around Elio as he plays the piano. The song he’s playing is very calm and soothing but then Oliver walks into the shot and the song Elio is playing instantly intensifies and then calms back down as Oliver leaves the shot. I couldn’t help but make the association of the song being Elio‘s heart as it starts racing at the sight of Oliver and having that translated through the music he is playing is just a stroke of genius.
One thing that did get to me and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, maybe it would be reading into it too much saying that the characters felt unclear of their emotions but at points the camera was out of focus. It happened a few times which makes me believe that it might’ve been intentional but there were points when after a while the shot was become focused so I’m not sure. Again saying it was meant to be done could be over analyzing but the director did an incredible job with attention to detail it makes me wonder.
Overall this film is just beautiful, there was one thing that was off putting and it was the way Timothée kisses, like dude come on, you can close your mouth. Leaning in for the kiss he just kept it open like a chameleon waiting for the perfect moment to shoot its tongue out on a cricket. That’s only a small thing that just made me laugh and doesn’t effect my score I just had to say it. Like I was saying this film is beautiful in every aspect. The directing, the music, the acting, the script, the everything was just perfect and that goes for the ending also, and I’m not ashamed to say that it make me shed a tear. I’M HUMAN DONT JUDGE ME!