Following its triumphant debut at Sundance Film Festival early this year, Call Me By Your Name was picked up by Sony Pictures, making it one of the few (possibly only) majorly-distributed LGBT films of 2017. That means, thankfully, this beautifully-crafted same-sex love story will hopefully reach more than just enthusiastic indie cinema-goers.
In keeping with the source material, at first glance it seems like there’s nothing particularly ground-breaking about Call Me By Your Name, in story terms at least. Based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel, it follows a seemingly straightforward narrative similar to many other LGBT coming-of-age pictures: A 17-year-old boy named Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who is spending the summer of 1983 at his parent’s summer house in Italy, meets Oliver (Armie Hammer), a post-graduate student who has come to stay at their family villa, and slowly, a passionate but gentle relationship develops between them.
It’s not the plot itself, but the emotional baggage that the film carries, and specificity in its detail, that has made it truly resonate with audiences: From the fully-charged silences to the delicate moments of human contact, it stirs a mixture of confusion and an excited sense of longing, lust and infatuation.
A shortcoming of the majority of queer films is that they often end up in a bleak place – for fairly obvious reasons. And while Call Me By Your Name is still in many ways a story of sorrow and heartbreak, it is also, at its centre, a celebration of love, sex and the thrill of a human connection; a theme that remains consistent into the final scenes.
Former Homeland actor Timothée Chalamet displays an untainted innocence and purity as he goes through all the motions of falling in love for the first time, and while there is something relatably fragile about his character, he also conveys a rare kind of wisdom that speaks to any generation.
Chalamet hits a home run with his performance, and the chemistry between himself and Hammer is nuanced and captivating as the power-play between them continuously shifts creating an elegant but electrifying sexual tension between the two.
The film immerses audiences in an idyllic ’80s Italian summer as cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom scarcely goes into close-up of his leading mean, focusing instead on medium shots of the pair dressed in colour-blocked, loose-fitting shirts and white converse. He also also uses wider shots of the vast, Italian countryside and the antique neighbouring towns, sound-tracked by the chirps of a thousand crickets, and a richly indulgent mixture of ’80s sounds and three original songs from electronic singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.
Held up by two fascinating central performances, Call Me By Your Name is not only a triumph in filmmaking but a poignant investigation, and celebration, of the range of aspects of falling in love. It’s not only a film that you’ll remember, it’s film that you’ll remember feeling.
Call Me By Your Name is released in UK on Friday (October 27) and in the US on November 24.
Words: Joe Passmore