Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★★★

The films of Luca Guadagnino are a feast for all senses. His films I Am Love, and A Bigger Splash have maintained that kind of distinct quality of being mysterious, sophisticated yet at the same time, completely approachable in its privileged characters. Guadagnino’s films are able to quietly and slowly seduce, tempt, and haunt audiences with his elaborate presentation of bodies, architecture, poetry, music, and yes, food. These ’other’ presentations give way to what his narratives chose not to give. For instance, think about that delectable scene in I Am Love where Tilda Swinton eats that shrimp? I have never seen a scene so gorgeous yet at the same time incredibly implicit about this woman’s life and desires in one single shot.

Enter Call Me by Your Name, a film that is extremely sophisticated, erotic, passionate with its setting and its characters yet the emotions are so overwhelming that it actually bursts and leave audiences devastated and literally emotionally unstable. That’s what it left me two days after I’ve seen the film: destroyed.

The text of Andre Aciman matched so well with Guadagnino’s cinematic vision and it’s apparent from its first shot to last. Call Me by Your Name is a summer romance that tells the story of an overheated teenager and his infatuation with his father-professor’s doctoral student. Guadagnino went beyond the realms of coming-of-age stories about sexual awakening and LGBT narratives—instead offers an invigorating understanding about the joys and sorrows of first-love experience and the fleetingness of time. The film is not even focused on the idea of coming out, but more about the universal notion of desires and conflicting emotions of this boy in the cusp of manhood. There is also the idea of selfless love and acceptance brought by Elio’s parents and even magnified by Stuhlbarg’s show-stopping monologue which added more layers to the story. And then for older Oliver, the film implicitly explains of what has he become, and his chosen life of being in a closet marked as an unfortunate byproduct of a turbulent culture of his time. In the end, their short-lived romance has taught Elio something profound beyond the books he’s reading. It changed him, made him stronger, value himself deeper as the incredible final shot suggests.

From the technical standpoint, Call Me is sumptuous. The production designs and wardrobe are all on-point. The music by Sufjan Stevens captured the film’s underlying sadness and inner turmoil. While cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom makes a major impression conveying much of the film’s sensuality and beauty. James Ivory makes a wonderful comeback for his penning. It took at least an hour for the romance to start, yet its languorous journey is worth it. Ivory’s sensitive, detailed writing carried such strong emotional quality and empathy from his characters that by the end, you want to know them even more. Finally, Guadagnino impresses with his effortless direction. The film doesn't need to be explicit with sex and nudity because the Guadagnino's direction made all of those emotions tactile and palpable on screen.

Now for the acting, believe the hype that Timothee Chalamet gives the performance of the year. Chalamet is intensely charismatic and beautiful. His bold, unfussy performance is nothing but revelatory. He complemented well with capital-A handsome Armie Hammer’s suave, towering presence. It’s Hammer’s best performance in years. Whereas Michael Stuhlbarg gives a tremendous performance as the supportive father of Elio. His monologue in the end is that rare insight that encapsulates the essence of Aciman’s novel. Overall, Call Me by Your Name is just rare, beautiful, and emotionally-moving. Following the critical acclaim of Carol, and Moonlight, Call Me is another addition to the queer cinema canon and further raises the notion that queer movies are taking over our screens—and yes I don’t complain. I can't wait to see it again.

This and Lady Bird are the best films of the year. I can't decide which one is my first. Could it be both?

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