Thomas Duffy examines the beauty and finesse with which Call Me By Your Name explores first love
Stop what you’re doing right now.
The film that is, quite possibly, the greatest you will see in your life has just been released, and you haven’t even been to see it yet. Call Me By Your Name is an exploration of coming of age and falling in love, set in Lombardy, the countryside of northern Italy in the early eighties.
The film explores the blossoming relationship between Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the precocious, introverted 17-year old son of an archeology professor (Michael Stuhlbarg), and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a confident, sometimes brash, 30-something American academic, interning under the tutelage of Elio’s father, and living with them in their lush, palatial villa. Over Oliver’s six weeks at the villa, he forms a bond with Elio that goes far deeper than just their shared Jewish heritage.
Gone now are the days of landmark LGBT+ films made only for the sake of a splash of diversity. Call Me By Your Name is about the all-engulfing first love of our lives and it showcases this experience with an accuracy that is almost uncannily precise. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and based on the novel of the same name by André Aciman, there is no time for rom-com clichés in the film, there is no love at first sight or awkward flirting, but rather, just stunning naturalism from start to finish. Everything from the occasionally out-of-focus camerawork, which draws you to fixate on a point that never fully appears, to the numerous symbolisms of religion and fruit that lure you into the romance of the film. One notable symbol is that of the peach. As the blossom of summer grows, the peach ripens, grows, and sweetens, paralleling the relationship between Oliver and Elio. For our characters, peach serves as an object of nourishment, of beauty, and even a sexual one. Much like the onscreen characters, one cannot help but be seduced.
Having said this, it is the actors’ performances that are the heat in this summer of a film. Chalamet conveys the emotion and desire experienced by a young adult that anyone can relate to and yet at times, shows a bravery to express his feelings that most people have yet to achieve. Hammer doesn’t disappoint either, whilst on the surface he plays an arrogant know-it-all, each intricate eye movement and facial expression brings layers to the character, and you begin to understand the turmoil and tortured mind of someone so outwardly gregarious. It is no wonder both actors are tipped for Oscars – they already deserve more Oscars than the academy has categories.
The score for the film is as diverse and inspiring as the onscreen chemistry. From classical piano interludes to charming, heart-yearning folk, every song takes you along with the story. The score makes the story all the more vivid; sometimes it is used to further deepen the emotion of a scene as you indulge in it. At other times, abrupt musical cues completely cut the rapture short, reflecting the jolt felt when this happens in real life. Of course, set in the eighties, there had to be a few throwback floor-fillers, which are sprinkled throughout, but make no mistake, they never distract from the intensity of the romance.
The most poignant monologue is delivered by Elio’s father as he reminds us that “nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot” and that is exactly what the film itself does, it hits your weakest spot but leaves you wanting even more. I think the same can be said for this film as the actors said about their summer filming in Italy: “there will never be another”.
Featured image credit: Tyneside Cinema