By Jocelyn Illing, October 3 2017 —
Before the beginning of Call Me by Your Name, a programmer for the 2017 Calgary International Film Festival came to the front of the theatre to warn us that the movie we were about to watch might leave us in tears. I can justify his prediction — Luca Guadagnino’s film tugged on my heartstrings.
The film is set in 1983 Italy, where a graduate student has recently moved in with an American professor and his family. As time passes, the graduate student forms a special bond with the professor’s young son.
While the idea of a graduate student falling in love with a teenager is taboo, the film handles the topic with grace. Rather than focussing on the sexual relationship between the two, Call Me By Your Name digs deeper, exploring their emotional relationship and the teen’s struggle to understand his sexuality. The bond between the two characters was both intense and nurturing.
Part of what made this film so mesmerizing was the impeccable casting. Armie Hammer took the role of Oliver, the graduate student. Hammer’s Adonis-like physique was the perfect image of any teenager’s sexual fantasy. He played the role with the perfect mixture of charisma and tenderness. When we first meet him, Oliver is an all-American man — intelligent, good-looking and witty. Once he forms a relationship with Elio, the professor’s son, he reveals a more vulnerable side. Hammer’s performance, however, wouldn’t be anything without the brilliant work of Timothée Chalamet as Elio. Chalamet portrays his character with a raw approach, illustrating the multi-dimensional characteristics of a teenage boy.
Strong attention to detail was also a major component of what made Call Me by Your Name so breathtaking. The cinematographer’s use of close shots allowed us to clearly see the sorrow and frustration of the characters, helping us to immerse ourselves into the film. There were points where the images would blur, symbolizing the dream-like relationship between the two leads. The use of music was also stimulating. As the tone of the scenes changed, the piano music inside of Elio’s head shifted to fit the mood. During the lighter scenes, a softer melody played, versus the loud and rapid hitting of the keys heard during moments of sadness and anger.
A beautiful exploration of the teenage struggle with sexuality and relationships, Call Me By Your Name is one of my favourite films of the year. With its relatable characters, incredible performances and engaging cinematography, it is a must-see work of art.