Call Me By Your Name,” a poignant romance


Have you ever watched a boy cry for three straight minutes, staring toward the camera, and been completely enraptured? After watching director Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name,” I can answer that question with a firm yes. Having received numerous awards and accolades, including a nomination for Best Picture at the 90th Academy Awards and a 96 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Call Me by Your Name” is a must-see.

The film takes place in northern Italy in 1983 and is centered around the blossoming romance between 17-year-old Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet, and Oliver, a doctorate student, played by Armie Hammer. “Call Me by Your Name” is a feast for the eyes, each scene a captivating snapshot of summer languidness or fleeting excitement. Light shimmers against water in the sun-soaked Italian landscape while peach trees offer much-needed shade, with lanterns glowing softly in the inky night.  “Call Me by Your Name” was shot on 35mm film, granting the picture a nostalgic warmness punctuated by the film’s gentle whirring.

Further contributing to the film’s verisimilitude is the excellent sound design. Italian pop music wafts softly from the radio, while “Love My Way” by The Psychedelic Furs thrums during evening dance parties. Sufjan Stevens contributed three original songs to the film, including “Visions of Gideon,” a sad, soft ode to saying goodbye to a lover.

There is much beauty to be found in not only in the sensual cinematography, but also in the subtly emotional performances from the cast. Chalamet portrays Elio effortlessly, capturing the teen’s personality that fluctuates between awkward and sophisticated. Hammer is a delight whenever he is on screen, charming and confident. Also, every single outfit he wears in the film is fantastic. He really pulls off shorts.

“Call Me by Your Name” nails the experience of first love and the subsequent first heartbreak. Guadagnino takes his time introducing the audience to the characters and setting, making each emotional moment feel very authentic. The chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer is integral to the movie, and Guadagnino’s conscious use of slow pacing allows Elio and Oliver’s romance to feel very earned. While some have criticized the age gap between the two characters, the relationship has a sweetness and giddy excitement about it that is earnest, not sordid whatsoever. This is not a story of predation and grooming, but rather a love story told from the point of view of someone on the edge of adulthood. Despite the overall positivity of the romance, it is still tinged with melancholy. The couple has no one trying to tear them apart. Elio’s parents, portrayed by Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar, are unconditionally supportive, yet we know the relationship is a fond memory that is destined to end. The only antagonist of the film is time.

For all its gorgeousness, “Call Me by Your Name” is not infallible. The film occasionally takes itself too seriously, adding a hearty serving of angst to something that could have had more levity. Moreover, the characters tend to speak in what seems like a language entirely comprised of academic jargon and references to the fine arts. Granted, these characters are supposed to be intellectuals, but sometimes they sound more like humanized encyclopedias than living, breathing people.

“Call Me by Your Name” is simultaneously a romance and coming-of-age story with the capacity to be startlingly poignant. A revelation in lush imagery and embellished with ‘80s aesthetics, it’s a film that will have you thinking about the characters and setting even after the bittersweet conclusion.