Director: Luca Guadagnino
Runtime: 132 minutes
If you saw my most recent article about Call Me by Your Name (CMBYN, and which I’m sure you all did), you would know that I was anticipating to see it on the 26th of December. However, as I am currently in Southern California (sigh, life is so hard), I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful Arclight Cinema, Hollywood, and finally indulge in Luca Guadagnino’s romantic coming of age drama.
The Arclight boasted contemporary film props and merchandise, and real buttered popcorn. However, it was this incredible film that truly took my breath away.
CMBYN is set in Northern Italy in the 1980s, and swivels most strongly around the summer manor of the Pearlman family. The protagonist, Elio Pearlman (Timothee Chalamet), is a well-read, 17-year-old Italian American man. His father, an academic professor, offers six weeks accommodation to Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old American scholar, in exchange for the latter’s administrative assistance.
The film focuses on the unexpected romance that blooms between Elio and Oliver, and the tensions arising from their naivety in the area of same sex relationships, the conservative status quo, and Oliver’s inevitable departure.
I will admit, the film did not conform entirely to my expectations. Despite running just over two hours, the film progressed very quickly. Upon his introduction, Oliver rapidly assumed the role of favoured newcomer in Elio’s Italian village. Little dialogue was offered to account for Oliver’s popularity, nor his mutual attraction to Elio. This didn’t bother me greatly, but that’s only because I’ve read the book and knew what to expect. I feel like the screenplay sometimes relied too strongly on assumed knowledge.
Then again, the novel is very lyrical and is narrated mostly as an interior monologue from Elio’s point of view. So the screenwriter, James Ivory, definitely needed to trim the fat.
Overall, however, the film’s flaws are greatly outweighed by its strengths. The lack of dialogue between Elio and Oliver is more than made up for by their magnificent chemistry. Even in their initial attempts to suppress their feelings, their furtive glances and sly smiles pour off the screen and make you complicit in their otherworldly love.
The soundtrack is exceptionally contextualised, with the piano scores lending weight to Elio’s precocious nature. The lyricism of Sufjan Steven’s original songs pays tribute to the boys’ paradoxically playful and consequential courtship, while songs from such ’70s bands as The Psychedelic Furs add to the film’s retro feel.
Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom imbues the Italian countryside with a whole life of its own. The humming of cicadas echoes across endless green pastures to rise up to the smiling blue sky. How can love not blossom?
This film was beautiful. It perfectly captured the intricacies and wonders of love, how it should be celebrated in whatever form it takes.
Apparently Luca is already gearing up for a sequel, and I truly hope so. CMBYN replenished my soul like oil replenishes a car engine, and I don’t ever want its effects to run out.
Call Me by Your Name will be released in Australian cinemas from the 26th of December.