A delightfully nostalgic and evocative portrait of young love, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name has all of the pleasure and only some of the pain.
My Summer of Loveby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
With none of the baroque grandeur of I Am Love, Call Me By Your Name is a return to form for director Luca Guadagnino after the dialogue heavy A Bigger Splash. It’s a return to the world he knows best – a bourgeois cosmos where archaeology, polymathy and classical music reign supreme. But it’s also a realm of semi-innocent touches, hesitant moves, idle longing and bruised peaches. At its centre is Elio, and it’s an outstanding performance from Timothée Chalamet, upon whose slender shoulders the film’s spectacular ending hangs entirely. Intelligent beyond his meagre 17 years, he’s isolated in his own world of books and music. And while he dallies with Marzia (Esther Garrel), a young holidaymaker from Paris, it’s Oliver (Armie Hammer) that becomes the axis on which his summer turns.
With man and boy circling each other for much of Jewish American Oliver’s stay in Northern Italy, Call Me By Your Name is a textural delight, focusing on the moments that mark both Elio’s growing desire – from his affront at Oliver’s dismissive “Later!” to his head mummied in the man’s bathing trunks. And some of these moments are so naturally heartwarming, such as Elio and Oliver’s telephone conversation that it makes one want to watch Call Me By Your Name all over again. Guadagnino’s film however does have its flaws. Taking place in 1983, the film just about skirts in before the AIDS crisis and the rampant homophobia that followed. Nevertheless, Elio’s privileged background and internationalist parents make coming out somewhat easy. An optimism at odds with Oliver’s decision to go against nature and get engaged or Elio’s conversation with his father that suggests a conspiratorial affinity. Homosexual desire, it seems is nothing to be ashamed of, but still only a phase or a dalliance that quickly runs its course. Even the final scene in which Elio cries directly to camera, crouched before the fireplace, mourning the end of the affair can’t undo the damage. Guadagnino’s adaptation of André Aciman’s novel is a wonderfully sensitive and evocative portrait of young love, but lost in time somewhere in Northern Italy, Call Me By Your Name gets caught up in the outdated politics of its day.
Call Me By Your Name is now showing at the 67th Berlin Film Festival
The film doesn’t mention AIDS or gender politics because the book doesn’t either. Maybe read the book before criticising the director for non-existent flaws.