Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★★

Another solid film that didn't altogether land for me. But unlike with Lady Bird, I have many more tangible critiques to offer about CMBYN.

First, the positives (I am giving it four stars): loved the settings/atmosphere, the music, the relationship between Elio and Oliver, the acting, and a few awesome scenes (believe it or not, I thought the peach (?) scene was one of the film's best). A good movie all around.

But there's also a lot that could be better. The movie's emotional climax, with the father's speech, is too long and doesn't work as well as it could if the dad had been more of a character throughout the film. There's never any real conflict with him, and there could have been a fantastic one--Elio could have resented him for taking Oliver's time, or for his and Oliver's academic relationship, or for the fact that they're both adult men and Elio's not. The "triangle" there could have been a huge factor in that final scene, when he and his dad get on the same page. In other words, if their relationship had one-tenth of the drama of Lady Bird and her mother's, that could have been a much better scene.

Then there's the problem of length--the film drags. It's partly a matter of subplots like Elio's other romantic relationship. Do we need it? Again, I think of the scenes with Lady Bird and Danny, which were much stronger in terms of conflict. Why does Elio have sex with her? There are so many possible answers, but I never picked up on any interesting ones in the film. More generally, I felt distanced from Elio at times and I think part of it is the film's pacing and length, which also failed to pull me in.

And somehow CMBYN still seemed awkwardly torn between the poignant calm of an Italian summer--a good thing, when paced properly--and the excitable bluntness of burgeoning sexuality. I love the coming of age moments, but I didn't love the abrupt editing (especially with music) that pulled us away from scenes that could have been great if lingered upon (instead of lingering on scenes that distance us). One example is when Oliver throws himself in the pool. We never get to see the conclusion of a promising scene--does he make Elio come in and save him? In terms of editing, the conflict between fade aways and sharp cuts left me feeling more confused than awed.

Anyway, I'll stop raining on the parade now. It's still a good movie.

Nick liked these reviews