Call me by your name – Review by Luis Freijo
If I was compelled to describe Call Me by Your Name in just one statement, I would say that this film embodies the reason why, more than a century after its invention, we still go to a cinema theatre. To find stories, characters, feelings that speak to us, that reveal to us hidden thoughts, secret sensations. To remember and nurture past relationships or emotions, not with anger or sadness, but with nostalgic tenderness. All that, and much more, is achieved by Luca Guadagnino, Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, James Ivory and the team that created Call Me by Your Name.
Where can the key successful elements of this film be found? First of all, in the script written by James Ivory. The relationship between Oliver (Hammer) and Elio (Chalamet) is built calmly, without hurrying anything. Framed in that dreamlike Italy, they challenge each other´s minds, bodies, sentiments, knowledge. It is a complete love affair built on a deep sense of feeling and the profound cultural wisdom shared between them. On the other hand, the use of several languages brings a sort of music to the ears (especially if one is able to understand simultaneously English, French and Italian), and the set of secondary characters provides a picturesque ornament to Elio´s and Oliver´s relationship. However, the most intelligent aspect of this story is that the focus is never put on the gender of the lovers, but on love itself.
In order for the film to be touching, the acting has to be very good. It is, indeed, excellent. There is a galloping chemistry going on between Hammer and Chalamet, and they both manage to convey complex, deep, emotional characters. It is probably the best performance in Armie Hammer´s career, but Timothée Chalamet is especially brilliant. He portrays the (in)experience of the teenager; the insecurity and the lack of knowledge makes for a feeling that anyone can identify with. Apart from them, Michael Stuhlbarg does a wonderful job as a supporting character, and his last scene is an example of what acting should be: five minutes of truth. He should win every best supporting actor award this year for that sequence, period.
Writing and acting are completed by Guadagnino´s camera work. Everything is carefully measured in Call Me by Your Name. Narration flows without noticing, with complete transparency, so that the story gets full attention. In this aspect, some scenes can be highlighted for their cinematic brilliance. The moment of the declaration is an example of clever mise-en-scène: Elio and Oliver reach a fountain in the village, park their bikes, go around the fountain while they speak and then they go back. It is so delicately filmed that it is only halfway through that one realises that it is a long take: the camera doesn´t cut once in five minutes. And the last shot is an instance of how beautiful simplicity can be: just a close-up on a character is enough to make one cry.
When Call Me by Your Name ended, it went some time before people started moving and talking in the screening room. It felt like everyone was touched, reflecting on the feelings evoked by the film. That only happens with a handful of pieces of art. And Call Me by Your Name was just that: cinematic art.