Call Me by Your Name ★★★★½

"Is it better to speak or to die?"

Much like its award-nominated peer in Three Billboards, a single line said mostly in jest ends up becoming the most intriguing line of the film and the foundation of the narrative progression. Though it would be a dishonor to Call Me By Your Name to say that this is the only thing to take from this experience; it's simply what stood out most to me.

I had heard this film referred to quite often as a "sensual" piece, which my stupid brain immediately assumed would mean "overtly sexualized and flaunting." Upon taking my seat within the theater, I prepared myself for a multitude of sex scenes, dirty talk, and incredibly graphic nudity. This mild discomfort boiled over when I realized the majority of the people around me were older women, and men who looked as though they were roped into the viewing by their female partners. What would eventually display itself was not the girth of flesh attached to a Roman-esque statue of objective Beauty, but something far more wholesome and, perhaps most importantly, real.

When I tell you, reader, about a viewing experience in which a piece doesn't necessarily fall within a structure of "Beginning, middle, and end," do you understand what I mean? Must I explain this immersive phenomena of losing oneself within not a tower of a hundred floors, but a river without any sense of stopping point? The "stream of consciousness," or so it's called. CMBYN is dutifully structured, but there's a natural sense to it, this "sensual" quality that was stressed to me by various reviewers that suddenly means so much. One can hear every wet kiss, feel every touch, caress, embrace; gazing upon the tranquility of the outdoors, with trees dancing in the wind, ponds glistening in the rays of the setting sun. One is treated to a gallery of tingly sensations from an aesthetic viewpoint on top of the smooth flow of character and plot progression. Smell, sight, sound: you name it.

Lost within this sort of artistic sublime, it made even the less entertaining portions of the film feel as though they had purpose. Romanticizing the everyday, as well as a potent emphasis on the outdoors and food, the former being something many take for granted in a world of technology and convenience. The film taking place in 1983(?) was a great choice, when technology was only just becoming a focal point in the everyday life of humanity. Not a lot of cars here, either, providing far more of that immersive feeling of being among nature through multiple bike rides and swimming excursions.

But I watched a movie, right? Not a painting. What of the aspects more central to cinema, as in the characters and story? Well, that's something I'd like to keep under wraps. My only hint, for those who take my words as important in the slightest, is the opening line of this review. Again, it is only my singular perspective that I thought was the most notable moral messaging, but I think with that phrase taken to heart, one's viewing could prove more insightful, much like my second viewing would be. Anything else can be emphasized with the last word of paragraph three (the first line counts as a paragraph).

And the m-u-s-i-c! Not since Blade Runner 2049 had I felt so touched, so enveloped, and so attacked by a soundtrack to a film. The choices are exquisite, so wonderfully placed to not only build upon the already magnificent attention to its aesthetic, but to maintain a melancholic and emotionally-stimulating Summer to remember. Not just with music, but with how sound is implemented and manipulated throughout. Not once, but TWICE the score just FUCKING STOPS in the middle of a mirthful scene to cut to another one! What a kick to the chin!

If not for its fantastic display of immersion, CMBYN may not be the prolific picture every critic's billing itself to be. Even without it, I think the film is a good one, decent enough to be a standalone romcom featuring a heterosexual couple instead of homosexual one (though the focus on homosexuality makes for part of the intrigue). It is precisely because it goes above and beyond that it deserves every good grace, every shower of praise that is thrown its way. Movies should be more like this, in some fashion or another. If not for its aesthetic beauty, then the delectable substance underneath. A near-perfect marriage between substance and execution.