Tender Italian Summer: ‘Call Me By Your Name’ review


It’s not easy to present a love story without falling into cliché. And it’s not easy to present a story about love between two men without falling into the “Brokeback Mountain” pattern. Yet, Luca Guadagnino has managed to create a beautifully gentle and universal film about both love and longing.

Based on the book by André Aciman, the film’s plot circles around a brief but unforgettable romance between a 17-year-old Elio (the astonishing Timothée Chalamet) and a 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Oliver comes to the idyllic villa as a PhD student helping Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). And what starts as lazy deliberate summer spent on reading books, swimming and listening to music in an Edenic surrounding of Italian summer of 1983 ends up being a journey of self-discovery.

Guadagnino’s film serves us with an intellectual feast in the shade of Plato, where characters’ multilingual conversations on both ordinary and complex cultural issues are followed by the images of ancient figures, the allusions of which are visible during the whole story. Imagery is brilliantly supporting the plot, that contains not a single unnecessary scene. Every detail represents something and smoothly leads us through labyrinths of metaphorical meanings.

Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar play intelligent and supportive parents., always there for Elio with words of wisdom when he needs them. The mother finishes the reading of “The Heptaméron” by Marguerite of Navarre with words: “Is it better to speak or to die?”. Words perfectly describing Elio’s dilemma as he’s a ‘spiritus movens’ of the whole action that continues because he’s in love for the first time. Words also unforgettable for the viewers.

Despite of being simple and gentle, the film still manages to be touching and sentimental. The director’s affection for the particular period of time and place, as film’s location was just a few miles from his home in Crema, are obvious. The story is accompanied with era-specific pop culture treasures, from Phil Collins to The Psychedelic Furs, but the melancholy ballads by Sufjan Stevens are the most adequate. One of the songs plays over the astonishing, yet devastating final shot with magnificent Chalamet.

“Warm” shots blend with visually alluring and erotic motifs with Platonian relation student-master that is purely and intimately homoerotic without intrusions by other threads. It shows universal story about falling in love and love itself with a psychological study of the ways different people react and process complex situations. Also regardless of their sexual orientation.

“Call me by your name” is an example of expressive and touching cinema that stays with us for long time. It’s not only about pictures or even words it contains, but the whole form. The film is presented exquisitely – it appeals to literature, sculpture, music and at the same time everything seems to be “in place”. Nothing is redundant, even the universal experience of loss. And all of that is delivered in honest, lyrical and stunning way in an outstanding modern European cinema.

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