Every once in a while a film comes along that reminds you how good cinema can be.
You may be hearing a lot about Call Me By Your Name now and in the future, whether it be from critics or an industry itching to throw awards at this movie. These plaudits, and those yet to come, are far from hyperbolic; the filmmakers here having achieved something akin to what movies are supposed to be – magical.
In short, Elio (Timothee Chalamet), a teenager residing in Italy in the early 1980s, encounters the newly arrived Oliver (Armie Hammer), over from America to assist Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) in his work for the summer. What proceeds, in the best traditions of but so above and beyond the summer romances to which we are accustomed, bears the deceptively light touches of practised, affectionate artistry boasting all the power of a host of sledgehammers.
What resonates in Call Me By Your Name is not the moments that play well in a trailer or culminate in the choicest one liners for which a film of this genre would otherwise be remembered, but the risky and abundantly shrewd decisions to render these key instances as understated, lifelike and devoid of the saccharine quality that underpins so much drama; not to rob us of our glossy mirror on life but instead have it reflected back at us with abounding power.
Moments shared joyfully here take on a near dreamlike quality, as does the passing of time, rendered seamlessly within aspects of the story such as Elio’s father’s steady progress on his musings, or a bruise ever so subtly healing on a character. When confrontations do happen, it is endemic to the characters and their surroundings, not the expediency of a traditional second act clash here near forgone in a manner so explicit as to both defy convention and celebrate the accomplished, favourably impressionistic narrative.
On the one occasion where it appears the screenplay might abandon its refreshing stylings and have Elio’s father expound on a character’s virtues, instead Stuhlbarg stunningly delivers a moralistic treatise neither contrived nor at all misplaced and too as realised one of the most touching moments of the film.
Beautifully shot, Elio and Oliver’s sexuality and shared religion both emerge as centrepieces of this touching drama. While their sexuality is proffered more of an overt focus, the pair’s common backgrounds, expressed touchingly by something as simple as a necklace, remains just as relevant throughout. The common sense of experience and belonging evident in both of these respective identities, while not always conveyed explicitly at every stage is nonetheless the cornerstone of both of these fully-fledged figures. The pair’s interactions and apparent sense of isolation inherent in both of their shared traits informing and affirming a burgeoning sense of self-realisation and empowerment in each of their sexual and religious spheres, the events that follow are consummately impactful.
A high achievement plain and simple, if you see one film on Boxing Day make it this one.
Call Me By Your Name is in cinemas on Boxing Day