Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★★

Love is ultimately an act of discovery in Call Me By Your Name, the latest film from Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash), emotions finding themselves externally manifested in a confusing, sensorial swirl of desires and textures. Based on the André Aciman novel of the same name, the film centers on Elio (newcomer Timothée Chalamet), a young, Jewish Italian-American spending the summer of 1983 in a Northern Italy villa near the archeological site where his father is unearthing ancient Roman sculptures—his are days largely spent swimming, reading poetry, and transcribing music until his ennui is interrupted by the sudden appearance of “usurper” Oliver (Armie Hammer), a tall, blonde, near-perfect physical specimen and twenty-something American grad student boarding with the family while he does work-study with Elio’s father.

What ensues is a rich, intoxicating back-and-forth between Chalamet and Hammer, at first in conflict with one another over Oliver’s charmingly disruptive confidence, and then gradually getting a feel for the space, their positions in it, and then eventually each other. It’s the cliché First Love story so honestly and vividly realized it’s impossible not to be swept up in its passion. Guadagnino directs with his usual romantic eye for beautiful places and people, here however it takes on new meaning as the lovingly filmed architecture and clothing occasionally finds itself outdone by the simplicity of the human form—skin, sweat and hair take on an almost mythic quality as legs find themselves entwined, bodies posing like sculptures, arms in motion to the groove of music.

Chalamet is excellent as Elio, it’s a vulnerable & confident performance that nails the most important part: making his awakenings both sexual and otherwise feel entirely organic (a moment early on where he puts Oliver shorts over his head and his body naturally extends into the act is wonderful) but it’s Hammer who walks away with the film, possessing every space and person that comes within his orbit it’s that rare kind of magnetic performance the camera has a difficult time looking away from. Together they radiate tenderness and sensuality, the emotional weight of this story tacitly coded into the form—communication primarily through fleeting touches and glances, a shot of a foot in water later mirrored in feet embracing, and then again later in a waterfall, the sequence where Elio’s watch keeps catching the camera’s attention because a casually planned meet-up can’t leave his mind, these momentary flourishes complicating and layering onto each other is the film at it’s most powerful. "Remember everything."

PART OF MY TIFF17 COVERAGE