Movie Review: ‘CALL ME BY YOUR NAME’ – a dream-like romance that comes from a genuine place


 James Cole Clay // Film Critic


Rated R, 132 minutes
Director:  Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Armie HammerTimothée ChalametMichael StuhlbargAmira Casar and Esther Garrel

So rarely is their a coming-of age-drama where silence speak volumes. This is mainly true in Luca Guadanigno’s masterpiece, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. It’s a film that battles the paradox of speaking your feelings, or burying them so deep they’re forgotten, which would be the ultimate tragedy.

The whimsical sun-drenched tale of taboo and love brings worthy comparisons to CAROL and MOONLIGHT, elevating emotions to something greater than cinema. This is a film that mimics the feelings of reality. Longing for the one you love after the dream is over, cast members Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet are courageously vulnerable in lucid dream that’s beyond cinema; it’s perfection.

Guadagino’s bittersweet tale takes place during the summer of 1983 in idyllic Northern Italy where seventeen-year-old American-Italian Elio Perlman (Chalamet) lives in an academic haven with his father Lyle (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Greco-Roman professor and his mother Annella (Amira Casar). Elio spends his days reading, flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrell) and transcribing classical music. He seems like a man with matters of art and philosophy, but when it comes to his heart Elio is just a child. It’s not until 24-year-old American doctoral candidate Oliver (Hammer) comes to stay with the family for the summer to help out his father with research does a slow awakening happen.

Caught in the middle of a dream, Guadagnino’s canvas is the Italian landscape — a bubble that cannot be penetrated by outside forces. (The Perlman’s might as well be on another planet.) He takes us on a journey of exploration that’s not just of the sexual nature; it’s regarding human connection and vulnerability. The sun-kissed scenes unfold in a hazy dream of that’s ever so slight to give the audience clues into what is going to happen next. The pains of same-sex relations never come to fruition in a social sense, but the desire surrounds them is impatiently waiting to blossom. Time is a currency in this world as every glance and touch signifies the ticking of a clock. These men are on a search for self-discovery before time runs out; Guaganino is just priming the audience for a third-act pivot that pays off with emotion and hard truths about love.

Timothee’ Chalamet, left, and Armie Hammer in ‘CALL ME BY YOUR NAME.’ Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

“Is it better to speak or die ” screenwriter James Ivory asks. Ivory, who was 88 when this screenplay was penned, suggests that the greatest tragedy of all is to bury the pain of love like it never happened than embrace the emotions that so many people run from everyday. Elio is caught in the paradox of the person he’s afraid to become and his true self, all juxtaposed with the idealism of Oliver’s sensitive masculinity. As the dog days of summer wane on these guys start to share bike rides, errands and this unknown desire to have sex with one another. The awakening between them is a tasteful reminder that love knows no bounds and comes without warning.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME wears the summer like a badge of honor daring the other seasons to compete with its seduction and beauty. Shot by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (UNCLE BOONME WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES) this is a film photographed with the essence of what makes life worth living. The days blend together, but Elio and Oliver are changing into the men they’re destined to become. And despite this being a film about the pains of desire the tension isn’t built up in a physical sense, but an intellectual way as they feel each other out with questions about life.

As Guadanigno’s film etches to its climax and the feelings put into action Oliver’s true nurturing nature is comes to the surface bursting at the seams with warmth and kindness. The details in this film are best experienced for yourself as the meanings take on many forms from person to person. This is the beauty of letting CALL ME BY YOUR NAME wash over through its images and soft score of classical piano set against classics such as “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs and “Summer Wine” by Nancy Sinatra, this is an engulfing atmosphere that provokes thought and relaxation. The films leaves us with a beautiful song sung by Sufjan Steven’s that he wrote for the film that breathes a new vibrancy into what a love story can be. The clumsiness of first love is something to savor, but sometimes a small guiding hand is all you need.

[Grade: A+]

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is now playing in theaters in limited release.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.