Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★½

AFI Fest 2017: Movie #2

I felt so little. The atmosphere established through the beautiful cinematography and score in the opening sequences drew me in, but shortly after, this same score became repetitive and the once-lush visuals became distracting. Luca Guadagnino has the unfortunate trait of taking very simple moments and making them very confusing. The scenes later on in the film become so short and fleeting that we lose any sense of the characters we had before, minimal as they were. Even the passage of time is hard to follow, a slight problem of many in regards to how this couple builds intimacy. The skeleton of this film is a weak one, and the internal elements are just as flawed.

All of my above critiques standing, I could have still enjoyed this film had it been a touching coming-of-age story or romance. My fundamental issue here is that I did not believe these two as a couple. I never once felt that they were in love. The film itself and multiple characters within it talk about the love between Oliver and Elio as if it is a rarity and a beautiful thing, but where is it ever like that? On paper (literally, explored in the novel), the two could bond over shared values, their Judaism, their personal goals, etc. But in this film, we barely see them interact together in any significant way. Their interactions are not emotional or intellectual -- there is no deep connection on any level. Despite some weird moments of forced tension, I never would've guessed these two would get together until they did.

I was apprehensive going into this film because of my discomfort with Oliver and Elio's relationship in the novel. As the title, Call Me by Your Name suggests, this is not a casual romance. This is an intense, consuming bond involving shared identity and a complete lack of individuality or privacy. Potentially that works in a love story about two foolish teenagers, both experiencing first love, but this is not Oliver's first. Elio's emotional immaturity is present throughout the film, and it makes the dynamic between him and Oliver deeply uncomfortable. The film tries to reach this same level of intensity (though some more extreme aspects have been omitted), yet it removes the context from the novel. When Oliver says the titular line, it seems to come out of nowhere. Why are these two so intensely in love? What is this love based on? I can't see it as authentic.

I can think of perhaps two or three moments where I could have imagined tearing up. More than anything else, I found myself laughing at how awkward the dialogue was being delivered. The performances range from fine to phoned-in, but the larger issue, I believe, is in the direction. Even the blocking of the sex scenes felt bizarre. It's not the result I hoped for, but honestly, it's kind of what I expected.

I'm happy for any MLM out there who are loving this. You deserve depictions of love that you can connect with. For me, this just didn't work.

Rating: 44/100

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