I’ve seen Call Me By Your Name (CMBYN) twice now. The first time I watched it was with a friend at a Thursday morning matinée. I was tired and distracted by every single creak of the chairs or the mutter of the old folks around us. It just wasn’t the right environment for me to appreciate the film in its glory.
After the film, I felt underwhelmed by what I had been told was the “best film of 2018.” Originally, I thought I missed it entirely. It was too long and slow-paced. However, I thought the ending was raw and powerful, but the beginning was tiring and confusing. Afterwords, I questioned my friends about what they thought, trying to gauge a similar response.
For days following I could not stop thinking about the love between Elio and Oliver, trying to wrap my head around the 2 hours and 12 minutes of footage. I found that the more I reminisced about the film, the more beautiful and powerful I found it. So of course, I decided to re-watch the film, this time alone and attentively. And wow…that’s what I have to say. Once I really invested, I truly appreciated the film for the cinematic masterpiece it is.
Call Me By Your Name tells the story of Elio, a seventeen year old boy, and Oliver, a grad student is staying with Elio’s family for the Summer. CMBYN purposefully simmers to a slow boil, allowing Elio’s raw fascination with Oliver play out over the 6 weeks that he is staying with the family. During volleyball games, swims, and bike rides around Northern Italy, we are allowed entry into their love story. However, it is more than just a Gay romance. It is a coming-of-age and acceptance story that teaches one of the most important lessons.
Personally, I believe CMBYN is the type of film you should watch alone while swaddled in a blanket. The film is fully immersive in a visual and emotional sense. It’s use of establishing shots, camera movements, and set design perfectly depict an 80s Italian Summer. The emotion of the film utilizes all 2 hours of the film to swallow you up in the love shared between Elio and Oliver.
The chemistry between Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet is breathtakingly surprising for two heterosexual actors, a chemistry taken off-screen in their friendship. Both actors truly embody their characters, with Armie Hammer as the brute American stereotype and Timothée Chalamet as the quiet, young boy with passion. Their performances together are spirited and do not shy away.
The music, as in any Indie film, has superb choices. Majority of the score/soundtrack is piano or 80’s-vibe music, other than that it’s slow, melodic themes created for Elio and Oliver by Sufjan Stevens. My two personal favorites off the soundtrack being “Visions of Gideon” which plays over the end credits and “Futile Devices.”
Every performance is outstanding and deserves the nominations already handed to them. Timothée Chalamet is the breakout star of the film. As a young twenty-two year old, most known for his recent role in Lady Bird and Interstellar. His performance is a stoic beauty, which exhibits a sense yearning, just from his gazes. A performance not to be missed is by Michael Stuhlbarg, who surprises in an Oscar-worthy (?) monologue at the end of the film, one in which audiences needed to hear and live by.
My only real problems with the film is that it does feel too long at some points, but I eventually got over that. As well as the fact that you can easily miss what the actors are saying, especially since the film has subtitles and switches around languages. The best part of the film is how real it seems, with its slow pace and feasible plot. As many modern love stories are centered around coincidences. The affair between Elio and Oliver is seized in the moment and cherished.
It’s so hard to speak about this film without spoilers, as every moment of the film should be desired and experienced without spoil. Viewers should dive head first into love, just as anyone should.
I will say that I do not feel this film is for everyone, but everyone should watch it. Not because of it’s a Gay romance, but because it’s artistic, indie approach. For most blockbuster lovers, Call Me By Your Name is a break from the traditional love story that’s been read a million times over.