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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

February 22, 2018   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Intimate, original romance is bold and beautiful

Call Me By Your Name

La Cinéfacture

Finally, a love story about human affection and interpersonal connections that doesn’t settle on tired, wornout tropes hits the big screen.

Director Luca Guadagnino’s latest film, “Call Me by Your Name,” depicts a homosexual romance that doesn’t feel exploitative and manages to show the characters’ struggles through a lens never seen before. Guadagnino’s film is a story about love rather than a film just about homosexuality. “Call Me by Your Name” is a bold story about love with emotional acting and visually stunning camerawork.

“Call Me by Your Name” is about Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and his family, who live in Italy. His father (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor who is hosting an exchange student, Oliver (Armie Hammer). Oliver is roughly 10 years older than Elio, but the relationship between the two men blossoms nonetheless. The moments of both sexual and emotional intimacy between Elio and Oliver are intense, largely because the lack of music puts the entire momentum of the scene on the actors. Unlike nearly every other homosexual relationship put to screen, there is almost no mention of the guilt brought on by cultural norms. The film’s focus is not to show a young man dealing with the pressures of his family and religion as he discovers his sexuality. It instead tells a love story that just so happens to be between two men.

Chalamet’s impressive ability to perform is put to use as he portrays Elio. Elio’s feelings are subtle, but Chalamet’s physical acting makes his emotions feel open to the audience. This performance is by far the standout of the film because of the way the camera does not cut around or avoid Chalamet at all. In incredibly intimate scenes, both with Oliver and by himself, Chalamet remains genuine despite the camera being fixed on him for extended periods of time. On top of this, Hammer portrays Oliver, a man who is going through his own journey of discovering his sexuality but whose life remains shrouded in mystery. Oliver contributes most to the intensity of the film: Because his backstory is so unknown, the audience never knows for sure how he is feeling. Oliver also offers a sense of tension because he could potentially be putting himself in a dangerous situation by getting involved with his host family’s son. The suspense built in this subplot is never explored fully, but it is given a very satisfying explanation at the end, even though it is not a traditional payoff. Although both of the leads give remarkable performances, Stuhlbarg is the real hidden gem. His delivery of a speech to Elio about Elio’s relationship with Oliver at the end is moving, eyeopening and one of the most memorable moments of the film.

Guadagnino has done an exceptional job directing this film, with camera work that seeks to show actions from different angles and through a plethora of brilliant framing devices that keeps the viewer engaged, even in the most mundane of scenes. One shot of the two characters riding their bikes down a street goes on for a half-minute without changing or cutting at all. Typically, this type of shooting would become boring and draw the plot out too much. However, it is a beautiful shot that creates a sense of atmosphere and allows the viewer to appreciate the beautiful scenery in Italy. The most interesting directorial technique is the use of incredibly long takes with no movement. In many shots, it feels like the camera is about to cut away, but it never does. This doesn’t make the film feel long or drawn out; it simply allows the viewer to become more immersed and invested in the world the characters are living in.

Although “Call Me by Your Name” succeeds in telling a very moving story about love, loss and growing up, it falters in the middle of the film. The second act deals heavily with sex, which makes sense as Elio is discovering his sexuality and experimenting, but it gets to a point where it borders on becoming gratuitous. There are several sex scenes where the plot gets bogged down, and it’s hard to see where the movie is going, to the point where it almost loses sight of its message. Thankfully, it moves into a stronger third act that sees Elio and Oliver go on a trip together during which they are shown to have a true romantic relationship through interactions that are nonsexual.

“Call Me by Your Name” is a film that is well-organized and relevant in this day and age. The storyline of the film is a refreshing take on gay romance and should excite anyone eager to see the diversification of cinema.