Oscar Nominations 2018 – FILM REVIEW: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Dir: Luaca Guadagnino

Nominated for: Best Picture, Best Actor (Timothee Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song

Score: ★★★★★

The third in Luaca Guadagnino’s “Desire” trilogy, (following the brilliant I Am Love and A Bigger Splash), Call Me By Your Name is the tale of 17 year old Jewish American boy, Elio played by Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet. It’s the summer of 1983 and his professor father (the always excellent Michael Stuhlbarg) invites graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) to stay with his family for the summer at their home in rural northern Italy. A romance between the boy and the graduate slowly unfolds during what is clearly the pivotal summer of Elio’s romantic, emotional and most of all, sexual awakening.

 

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Family meals in rural northern Italy.

It’s been described as a “gay coming of age tale” which is a title I somewhat resent. This movie is clearly not considered to be a “gay” film by those who have created it. This by no stretch a movie about being gay, this is, as movies should generally be, a film where the central characters happen to be gay, but they are in actual fact just two people falling in love. It’s not important especially that these characters are gay, in fact their age difference is perhaps as much a stumbling block as their sexuality is, but this tale is also not about the older man and the younger boy… this is a movie about love, and desires of both the flesh and the heart, and the way in which those feelings awaken as adulthood creeps into view.

 

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The younger Elio desires the family’s older visiter Oliver.

Guadagnino’s film is extraordinary in almost every way. The cinematography and settings are so beautifully rendered it leaves the viewer both stunned by & enveloped completely into the films immense beauty, as in Guadagnino’s other films you almost feel as if you are actually in these settings. Non of the images are artificially beautiful as indeed northern Italy would undoubtedly have been a beautiful place in the summer of ’83, but Guadagino has the knack for finding an extra shimmering, striking beauty in these real settings which alongside the story create a deeply felt wave of nostalgia paired with a vibrant & urgent sense of modern romance. I would very rarely label a film romantic, but this is in the utmost, and really that romance is not confined to the two leads. Romance echos through every facet of the film, Guadagnino’s love affair with the scenery, the sets, the dialogue, the framing, the textures, the colours, even the film’s brilliant soundtrack all exude a passion equal to, if not greater than the passions on display between Elio & Oliver. This is masterly filmmaking for grown ups, and for soon to be grown ups.

 

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Oliver and Elio meet at a cafe in town.

Timothee Chalamet in the lead may actually be one of weaker elements of the film, although he has been given a best actor nomination, but frankly the film is so ravishing and all encompassingly brilliant you would be hard pressed to notice. Reaction to the film has been interesting, and some have opined this won’t win the award for best picture because the academy won’t give out awards to “two gay films in a row”. There may or may not be some truth in this as in the wake of the Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo and #TimesUp wave rolling across Hollywood it’s possible the Academy may be focused on getting awards into the hands of female nominees (Greta Gerwig’s LadyBird for example) in order to be in step with this year’s big issue. In reality this could easily be called the best film of 2017, and it is indeed far superior to last years’ best picture winner Moonlight. So it would be shame to see it not win simply on the basis of it not being “the turn” of this subject matter. But perhaps love itself will win the day, because after all this is not a movie about being gay, this is a movie about love in it’s very purest form.

 

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Timothee Chalamet stares longingly into the distance.

As I said before, this movie eschews what is all too often a cliche in Hollywood now, of being an “issue” movie, and deals with what really matters, the reason why people do the things they do, because of the deeply felt emotions that spur them to partner with another and how the formative experiences of this can be so deeply felt. It’s a complex and haunting exploration of youthful emotions for a more mature cinematic audience. The deeply moving exchange late on in the movie between father and son is a stunning testament to how this mines deeper into the recesses of the human heart than any movie that superficially deals with social issues is, instead this is a piece of timeless art. My advice is do whatever it takes & make the effort by any means necessary to see this gorgeous, lustful, heartfelt, nostalgic, intelligent, romantic, wistful, vibrant, sensual, warm, devastating, rich, passionate masterpiece piece on a big screen, this is truly great cinema and a real peach of a movie.

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