Dir: Luca Guadagnino | Panorama | Special Presentations | USA/Italy/France | 2017 | 131 mins
Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, 9 p.m | The Centre
Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 3:15 p.m. | The Centre
A glimpse into the agony and ecstasy of teenage summers, director Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name is a poetic exploration of forbidden love.
It’s the summer of 1983 and 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalet) is spending the summer with his parents in Northern Italy. His father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an American archaeology professor, invites an apprentice, Oliver (Armie Hammer) to join his family and to aid his research. Oliver turns up and impresses with his intellect, his charm and his Clark Kent good looks. Elio isn’t sure what to make of this crude-mannered American. What begins as curiosity develops into something more urgent. What follows is a beautiful love story tempered with the knowledge that, just like summer, this too must end.
Elio’s days spent reading, biking, swimming, composing and playing music are suffused with Oliver. Elio treasures the evidence of Oliver’s presence in the house: books left unattended, a button-up shirt, the Star of David necklace he wears around his neck. Elio is always observing, always attuned to his beloved’s presence, and we, the audience, are similarly transfixed by the beauty of their love affair.
Based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, Call Me by Your Name is a heady, sensual experience. From the lush visuals of Italy, to the lingering close-ups, to the buoyant original soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens, Guadagnino casts an intoxicating spell.
Elio’s father studies ancient statues, his analysis of them linked with the idolatry of the Elio the lover and Oliver the beloved. The film therefore nods at the traditional pederasty of ancient Greece, an erotic relationship between an adult male and a younger male. The Athenian law that recognized consent, not age, as regulating sexual behavior is seen differently through a modern lens. There’s a fine line between romantic classical ideal and assault. Guadagnino addresses any possible ambiguity by framing the relationship as cautious and respectful. The love scenes are erotic without ever feeling exploitative. The cast delivers impeccable performances with a formidable chemistry between Chalet and Hammer. Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a tenderly meaningful monologue about love that secures the classic gay novel adaptation a permanent place in gay cinema. Elio’s earnest exuberance is awkwardly honest, and Oliver’s care for him is captivating. We see the vulnerability pass from Elio to Oliver and back again. Love, the universal equalizer.
With Call Me by Your Name, Guadagnino beautifully captures the essence of the inner-life of a teenager. When summers were interminable, corporeal love was new, and kisses were stolen. The film is seeped in nostalgia for the torture of being young and in love. It is incredibly painful when you’re living it but it slips away all too quickly and that newness becomes hard to imagine. Guadagnino takes his viewer back to that time in an immersive experience that leaves a lasting glow.
Watch the trailer here.