The stylish, colourful films of director Luca Guadagnino have always made for enjoyable, high class filmmaking. Now, with romantic drama Call Me by Your Name, he has delivered an awards worthy picture capable of potentially paralleling the success of 2016’s Moonlight.
A multilingual magnum opus
Set in the summer of 1983 somewhere on the Italian Riviera and based on a book of the same title, Call Me by Your Name follows 17 year old Elio, the son of an American professor, and his moving, blossoming romance with a much older graduate named Oliver who comes to stay with his family. It’s easy to parallel gay dramas with famous examples like Brokeback Mountain and Moonlight but that takes away from the fact that this film is a masterpiece in its own right. The adapted screenplay is fantastic, weaving together Italian, English and Arabic amongst other languages into the script, producing an ever-changing story that flits seamlessly between moving, hilarious and magical.
Technically speaking, there’s no surprises that Guadagnino has produced a gorgeous looking film that thrives not only on its beautiful Italian setting but also its lighting, producing some simple yet wholly effective shots that are very easy on the eye. Equally the film thrives on its sublime score, from the ever present classical piano tunes to its repeated use of The Psychedelic Fur’s ‘Love My Way’, which succeeds in producing some moments of utterly ridiculous 80s dancing by Elio and Oliver. The way in which the credits play out over the last scene seems like such a small thing to comment upon but it’s truly impactful, and the story is so touching and well rounded that it’s easy to be taken aback by the emotion.
Bringing the romance to life
When casting for such a film, the chemistry between the two actors thrust into the lead roles needs to be perfect else it’s hard to capture a relationship properly, but Call Me by Your Name’s most memorable aspect is certainly the tour de force performances from its stars. Young Timothée Chalamet (Insterstellar) captures adolescence and the pains of first love as perfectly as any similar story told in cinema. His performance feels so natural which is a testament to his evident talents, as his portrayal of Elio is so well rounded, producing moments of pure hilarity as easily as overwhelming emotion and passionate love. He carries much of the film’s screen time on his more than capable shoulders and it’s a performance people are unlikely to forget in a long time.
Equally so, this movie appears to be a renaissance in the career of Armie Hammer, who’s often been limited to smaller, less impactful roles in his films of late. Yet here his role as Oliver is undoubtedly his career best and likely to shoot him up into the stratosphere of getting more and more high quality roles. Often his roles have made his characters unlikeable, such examples being the Winklevoss Twins in The Social Network or the sleazebag husband Hutton in Nocturnal Animals, but he makes Oliver wholly loveable and oozes charm at every given opportunity. His on-screen chemistry with Chalamet is beautiful and touching, but his ability to create humour is something of a surprise, something he does frequently in the film and is a catalyst for one of the film’s funniest moments. The two lead actors thrive on the story being entirely revolved around them and their obvious chemistry resulted in a wholly believable and beautiful relationship panning out on-screen, and with the wide open races this year it would come as no surprise to see at least one of them nominated for an Oscar.
For certain it’s one of the year’s surprise hits, propelling itself from a beautiful art house film into a real contender this awards season for certain. It’s technically wonderful, with brilliant cinematography and an equally brilliant score, yet the film’s real power lies within its astonishingly beautiful story told by two actors at their sublime best in awards worthy performances. One of the decade’s most moving romantic dramas and an absolute must watch this awards season.
Words by Elliott Jones