There’s a reason why Call Me by Your Name is one of the year’s most anticipated releases. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and based on the novel of the same name by André Aciman, the movie envelops the audience in a love story, in the sun-kissed fields and apricots of Italy, in piano music and Greek statues. When the screen goes black after two hours, it takes more than a couple of seconds to re-adjust to reality.
The story centres around Elio Pearlman, played by Timothée Chalamet, the only son of a Jewish Italian-American family. In the middle of the long Italian summer arrives Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American university student who helps Elio’s father with his research in exchange for food and lodging in the Pearlmans’ house. Elio finds himself fascinated by Oliver and the two draw closer and closer, until after a few weeks their relationship changes completely.
Aciman and Guadagnino (who also co-wrote the script) have the uncanny ability of perfectly capturing the core of what is first love, as seen through Elio’s inquisitive eyes. Call Me By Your Name slams its viewers right in the stomach with the force of this feeling, which is all-encompassing and absolute for both protagonists. This love is painted at the same time sensual and platonic, and as the summer comes to an end, also heartbreaking. But as Elio’s father said to his son in the last scenes of the movie, “to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”
The Italian summer is brilliantly portrayed by Guadagnino. No wonder, considering the Italian native filmed Call Me by Your Name in Lombardy, his birthplace. “What does one do around here?” asks Oliver during one of his first days. “Wait for the summer to end,” replies Elio, summarising the essence of it all. The endless, hazy days are alive in lingering shots on leaves and skin, a show of artistry that is sure to grab the eyes of many in the upcoming awards season.
The pace of the movie is rich and slow, sometimes excessively so but never boring. The viewer drifts from scene to scene accompanied by a soundtrack of Italian and Eighties classics. Two songs from the excellently chosen Sufjan Stevens compliments Call Me By Your Name’s warm atmosphere. The scene with “Mystery of Love”, the trailer song, is arguably one of the most poetically beautiful of the entire movie.
In the end, Call Me By Your Name is a movie about nostalgia and bittersweet longing – for love lost, for summer once winter has come, for Italy, for the past. All these emotions chase each other on Chalamet’s pensive face, who is now among the favourites for an Oscar nomination – and possibly a win as well.