As moviegoers, we always think we want a movie to sound like how people talk in real life but deep down we probably don’t. Many movies strive for sounding real but even those movies take reality and put it through a filter. Let’s be honest would we ever really want a movie to sound completely like real life? More than likely the answer to that is no. The simple reason is people say dumb things. We say things that have no meaning, or we can even say cringe-worthy things. Movies can filter that out and give the appearance of real life and make for a more enjoyable experience. However, movies should always be (and have been) striving for the feeling of real emotion. If a movie is doing its job right, there should be an emotional response. Some movies can bring out such an emotional response that it can feel real to us all.
This is precisely what director Luca Guadagnino has accomplished with his newest feature Call Me By Your Name (a movie that I am a little late to the party on). Call Me By Your Name feels so emotionally real and engrossing that you might swear you’ve been given a keyhole-like view into someone’s actual life. Call Me By Your Name is a movie filled with great performances, luscious landscapes, and a beautiful romance that blossoms so naturally and is absolutely one of the best films to be released in 2017.
Call Me By Your Name may have been released in 2017 but it takes place in the year 1983 in the beautiful countryside of Northern Italy. A 17-year-old Italian Jew, Elio, lives with his family there in the summers and travels around on bikes and spends his time listening to music and educating himself. His father brings on a new research assistant every summer and this summer is a young man named Oliver. Over the course the summer the two begin to bound and Elio discovers more about himself as the pair become romantically intertwined.
This may not sound like much and quite honestly watching the movie not a lot seems to happen. But, by the end, you realize a lot has happened. It is hard for filmmakers to really make the feeling of the passage of time feel real. While being pulled along with sometimes random events you come to realize at the end that Luca Guadagnino had you in the palm of his hand the entire time. Nearly everything in this movie has something to do with developing the characters, the relationships, or the world. The movie doesn’t go out of its way to create high stakes drama or follow typical romance clichés, it very quietly trudges along until you realize you’re as emotionally invested in the romance as Elio is.
The brilliant thing about Luca Guadagnino’s direction is that he mixes in the right amount of dialogue/exposition with the right amount of visual storytelling. The dialogue does not tell the story; the characters don’t always tell you how they feel but instead, Luca shows us how they feel. Many romance films can be accused of being overwritten with loud big speeches and lots of talk about feelings. Some movies I even love can fall into that trap (like Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy) but Call Me By Your Name holds back on playing it big and instead plays the moments small which makes the movie even more emotionally resonant.
Call Me By Your Name is led by two brilliant performances. Playing 17-year-old Elio is the young and rising star Timothée Chalamet. Chalamet shows himself as a multi-talented actor who commands and speaks three different languages and plays piano whiling acting out some emotionally vulnerable material. He is able to project wisdom beyond his years and never feels overmatched by the older and more experience Armie Hammer.
Speaking of Armie Hammer, it is a shocking oversight for him not to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Without Hammer’s cool, confident, but warming performance this movie doesn’t work (no matter how good Chalamet is). Hammer at first seems one note (as Elio might initially think) but as Elio gets closer and spends more time Hammer unravels the layers of his character and shines as his best performance since his work in David Fincher’s The Social Network.
I’m sure I am not saying a whole lot that others haven’t already said about this movie but after finally seeing it, it is clear why this is getting so much praise and attention, Call Me By Your Name is brilliant, haunting and a work of a great auteur. Call Me By Your Name gives the emotional realness that is needed for a movie like this to work, a feeling that is sought after many filmmakers but is rarely ever achieved. Call Me By Your Name is a layered and nuanced film that may require multiple viewings to dig deep into its more symbolic nature, never feeling heavy-handed or forced, Call Me By Your Name is masterful.