Only my mother knows this, but for Christmas this year I have asked for a single present; a Gold Class ticket to the Boxing Day screening of Call Me by Your Name (CMBYN), Luca Guadagnino’s romantic coming-of-age drama. In this article, I will take on the very difficult task of impartially validating my anticipation for this film. Whilst I will try my best to remain objective, I feel obliged to tell you that the novel on which this film is based is one of my favourite books of all time, and the film’s soundtrack is currently dominating my music library. But in my attempts to ignore the many reviews circulating popular culture (why do Australian release dates have to lag so hard behind America’s?), the film still genuinely looks interesting, and for all the following reasons:
- The narrative is bomb. I know I am getting too ahead of myself because only now am I explaining the actual basis of the story. Like I said, this film is based on Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name. The protagonist is Elio Pearlman, a 17-year-old Italian-American man spending the summer with his parents in the Italian countryside. His father, a renowned academic, offers accommodation to Oliver, a 24-year-old American scholar, in exchange for the latter’s assistance with paperwork. Over their six weeks together, Elio and Oliver navigate their mutual attraction for one another to form a unique bond neither has experienced before. It is not strictly friendship, though their feelings for one another greatly surpass the parameters of a brief summer romance. Neither profess their homosexuality, and they both engage in sneaky rendezvous’ with young women, so their relationship is equal parts unexpected and sublime. I know I’m using a lot of passionate language, but even in the trailer these sneaky rendezvous’ are featured. This doesn’t seem like the usual coming-of-age film where the growing adolescent, whether gay or straight, experiences a cringe-fest of bad dates only to come to the inevitable, wholesome realisation of ‘this is me, deal with it’. The trailer is relaxed and airy like the very location in which the film is set, signalling a homage to the truthful realities of falling in love for the first time.
- Luca Guadagnino is the master of love. Born and bred in Italy, the home of deep pasta dishes and red wine, it seems unsurprising that Luca could be so poetic in his portrayal of love and all its complexities. While I have not watched his two most notable works to date, I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015), it did not take too much research to realise the general consensus; Luca knows what he is doing. I Am Love deals with the matriarch of a haute bourgeoisie family and her decision to follow her heart at the sacrifice of her luxurious lifestyle. A Bigger Splash follows a female rock star taking some time off with her filmmaker husband, only for their solidarity to be disturbed by the arrival of the rocker’s boisterous ex-manager and lover. Despite the obvious differences between these two storylines, they indicate Luca’s preoccupation with a fiery passion and an inspection of the universal question: what is love?
- Finally, the film is set in Italy, for goodness sake, could it really be that bad? When I am excited to see a film, I research as much as I can about its production to satiate my taste without learning the full story. And CMBYN’s production sounds incredible. Luca was initially brought on as a location consultant (he lives in a village near Crema, Lombardy, where the film is primarily shot), however, he took on the position of director in 2016. The film is set in 1983, so not only has Luca taken on the ambitious task of replicating the societal mainstays of a long-gone era, he must also contextualise these themes in a culture most of us are not privy to. Word has it that he drew on the memories and keepsakes of neighbouring villagers to deduce the ‘feel’ of that time, while the lead actors, Timothee Chamelet and Armie Hammer, spent some additional time in Crema to become familiar with the rhythm of village life. Again, as an impartial viewer, the trailer exudes the warmth and hope of the Italian countryside, and unless you’ve read the book, you really can’t tell that it’s set in the ’80s. Isn’t that the best type of film? One that integrates it’s stylistic and narrative elements so astutely that you believe it’s vision without question? I believe (and desperately hope) that I will enjoy Luca’s reimagining of Andre’s world, that I can come back to you on the 27th of December and praise the film as the greatest cinematic revolution since buttered popcorn. Otherwise, this 800-word article will look really silly.