Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

SERIOUS SPOILERS AHEAD. I'm begging you not to read further if you haven't seen the movie.


In the overwhelmingly beautiful, supportive and heartbreaking monologue delivered by Professor Pearlman near the end of "Call Me by Your Name", he confesses to his son, Elio, that he envies what the young man had with the American intern who has just spent the summer at their Italian villa. "I may have come close once..." he admits. Its a startling admission from a father to a son and can be interpreted several ways, but the main point is Professor Pearlman is proud of Elio for opening his heart to experiencing love at its most intimate, even if the pain that sometimes follows feels unbearable.

And then something happens to reassure the audience that, despite the crushing pain of losing Oliver forever, Elio will carry on. We don't know what form love will take in his future, what pain he will experience, any more than we as individuals do. Que sera sera. Elio, in the final moments of the film, glances up at us - through the camera - a smile gently forming. Don't worry, he is telling us. I'm going to work through this.

How I wish I had that insight at seventeen. Or nineteen. That's how old I was in the summer of 1983 when this story takes place (though my experience was in the Saskatchewan prairies, not the farm country of northern Italy).

How I wish I had contemplated the question Elio asks of himself, "Is it better to speak or to die?" In the end, my path was similar to Oliver's. Denying my truth, marrying a woman, living a lie, societal conformity until I couldn't take it anymore and ended up hurting so many people all because I didn't have the courage to speak. "I may have come close once..."

So, despite the tears we shed over Elio's loss (and Oliver's, too, he doesn't get away scot free), we are gifted this wonderful message by Luca Guadanigno and the cast and crew of this incredible film. Speak your truth, experience the pain and come to terms that it is part of the miracle of living.

This might be the least cynical film ever made.

I whole heartedly recommend it to all young people. The wisdom rings true, no matter your orientation or social situation. I've been trying to think of a movie to compare it to, but nothing comes to mind and that's what makes "Call My by Your Name" an almost singular work of art.

There are many other aspects that are worthy of praise -- the cinematography (is only Nestor Almendros were alive to see this), the choices of classical and contemporary music, the sharp editing, the production design, all of it just works.

The acting however takes it to another level.

Armie Hammer brings Oliver, the American grad student, to glorious life, brimming with charm, brains, good humor and affection. None of this would have worked if we didn't have someone for Elio to believably fall in love with.

As Elio, the young actor, Timothee Chalamet, delivers an iconic performance that will rank among cinemas finest of the past half century. I have no qualms about equating his work here to revered performances by Robert DeNiro in "Raging Bull", Daniel Day Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" or Timothy Hutton in "Ordinary People".

Snooping in Oliver's bedroom, roiled by his emerging feelings for the American, Elio finds a pair of Oliver's swim trunks and lays them out on the bed before him. Slowly he begins to inspect the trunks, then pulls them over his head and breathes. Its as if he inhales his entire sexual sense of self for the first time, because Elio then rises onto all fours in a fluid motion that made me gasp. This scene was as raw and honest as any in the movie, including the notorious peach scene (which isn't really all that notorious; in fact, its one of the emotional peaks) and the ending close up of Elio coming to grips with his loss in front of the winter fireplace.

Finally, I will say this: I have watched several interviews with director Luca Guadanigno this year and there's a part of me that thinks the success and the love for this film has caught him a bit off guard. And I'm wondering if it is going to inform his filmmaking going forward. Audiences are really responding to the humanity of this work that wasn't evident in his two most recent films "I Am Love" and "A Bigger Splash". For the sake of all who love movies, I can only say, I hope so.

My love for this film is boundless after only two screenings and I know this hasn't been the most cohesive review, but I just wanted to put some thoughts down and if you've read all this without seeing the movie, then shame on you for ruining some of what makes it special. I did warn you :)

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