Best Adapted Screenplay

SONY PICTURES CLASSICS (2017)

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

"Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine..."

 

Long, sweeping summer days in the Italian countryside – sounds good to me. Apricot juice flowing, short shorts are everywhere (it’s the early-80s) and every night is a party. It certainly is for 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Chalamet). That is until his blasé parents (Stuhlbarg and Casar) invite American grad student Oliver (Hammer) to stay with them for the summer to aid his archaeological work. Like chalk and cheese, the two men initially share little in common – but the summer air has a way of bringing people closer together.

Bicycle trips into town, afternoon swims together, swimwear sniffing and subtle flirting are intertwined with Elio’s fledgling relationship with best friend Marzia (Garrel), but it becomes apparent to Elio that his heart doesn’t lie with her as his relationship to Oliver becomes closer and closer as the six weeks of summer dwindle down.

 

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name, adapted from André Aciman’s novel of the same name, burns slowly like the Italian summer of 1983. There’s a delightfully European feel to the cinematography as quiet shots of nothingness fill the screen – kitchen appliances, an apricot tree, the breakfast table (displaying some exquisite looking food) – all existing to create the lazy, sensual mood that covers the movie and display the long, hot summer as another character, almost (at any point, I fully expected the Style Council to pop by). In fact, the cinematography and camerawork go a long way to expressing Elio’s repressed feelings – background shots of the young boy gazing at the stud-like Oliver and quiet moments with Elio alone with his diary help just as much as the dialogue.

 

The key themes of first love and finding yourself are apparent all over the movie, but it never particularly feels forced or shoved down your throat. Call Me By Your Name takes a soft, sensual approach to the journey both men take. The more erotic scenes shimmer with a mature rawness and have a tasteful delivery – and are still more satisfying than both Fifty Shades movies. Only top class performances could anchor the story with the emotion and authenticity it required, and both Hammer and Chalamet deliver. There’s real quality in their performances that range all the way from swagger to sadness with Chalamet particularly impressive. Stuhlbarg and Casar are both strong as Elio’s parents, both unblinking when it comes to knowledge of their son’s relationship with Oliver and Esther Garrel provides the movies poignant touches as the girlfriend always on the fringes.

 

For me, the first half of the movie suffered from its pacing being too dreamy and slow. The necessity to create the idyllic surrounding and lifestyle that the characters live results in a whole lot of nothing going on – and not in the arty style the movie hangs its hat on. The Instagram style imagery was lovely to look at but that can only drive a movie for so long. At times, things became slightly tough going as the story drifted through second gear and it wasn’t until things between Elio and Oliver began to blossom that the movie did too. The second half was far more engaging, whereas the first half left me…disconnected and waiting for the bigger story to unfold – the journey was nice, but the destination was better.

 

There’s a wonderful scene between Chalamet and Stuhlbarg that is especially powerful in today’s age, a moment between father and son that delivers the movie emotional punch where the father gets his chance to shine. It’s a brilliantly rewarding scene. There is some well-written dialogue throughout – and some clunkers too – allowing the script to join the performances and visuals in being extremely good, though at times certain lines just don’t seem to fit.

 

Call Me By Your Name is a wonderful ode to youth and finding yourself through love – with all of the highs and lows captured and framed with a meticulous touch. Brilliant performances from Hammer and Chalamet drive the movie through its 132-minute runtime, though a ponderous, yet visually lovely, opening half bring the movie down slightly. It’s charming, it’s pleasing, it’s a bit sexy and it takes apricots to places they’ve never been before – but it’s a strong movie with wonderful messages, subtexts and delivery.

December 22nd 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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