Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name has received a ton of Oscar buzz early this year. I won’t drag it out any longer: it deserves all the applause it has been getting. The movie is gorgeous, the acting is phenomenal, and the story is simple yet delivered with honesty and realism. It’s really easy to run out of superlatives when talking about the movie.
Timothée Chalamet stars as Elio Perelman, a reserved 17-year old staying with his parents at their Italian villa for the summer. Summer each year, Elio’s father, a professor of archaeology, takes in a student to help out with academic paperwork, giving him lodging at their villa. Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American graduate student, has been selected this year as the assistant. The movie starts with a car arriving in the villa, Oliver getting out of the car, and Elio peeking over the window in his room. Over the course of the lazy summer, Elio and Oliver develop a relationship both didn’t expect to prosper.
Shot in the beautiful Italian countryside, Call Me by Your Name indulges in European sensibilities. Everything from the villa setting to the trilingualism of the Perelmans to the choice of music evoke a sense of vintage class. The movie draws the audience in instantly, making us feel as if we’re in the same position as Oliver, guests in the Perelman villa for the summer.
The film feels very lazy, but in a good way. It doesn’t rush in its storytelling, including a lot of shots of Elio and Oliver literally lazing by the poolside. It’s very refreshing in its realism. Summer in the 1980s, what else is there to do but to bide time?
Apart from the gorgeous direction and cinematography, Chalamet and Hammer give showstopping performances as the introverted Elio and confident Oliver. Chalamet gives a quiet performance as Elio, full of small mannerisms here and there and actions that I think would demand a read of the book to fully understand. Though shy, Chalamet’s Elio is captivating, always drawing the scene to himself, even if the Italian countryside backdrop tries to steal the spotlight. You only need to see the final scene of Elio to conclude that Chalamet has a very bright future ahead of him. Oliver plays more of a supporting role in the movie, yet he serves as a perfect foil to Elio. Hammer’s Oliver is very hard to read for both Elio and the audience.
In terms of story, Call Me by Your Name doesn’t really reinvent the wheel. It’s a love story at its core. However, the true test for a love story is that the audience must be able to relate to the characters and feel for them. And Call Me by Your Name passes this test with full marks, bringing the audience on a roller coaster of emotion in its two-hour run. You’d wish the movie would never end.
Call Me by Your Name is simply a gorgeous movie that deserves to be seen.