What a wonderfully subtle and understated romance between two individuals at very different points in their lives. Set in 1983, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is a teenager, aloof and arty, living in picturesque northern Italy with his academic parents. They invite Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome graduate student with a hint of self-conceitedness, to live with the family for a summer. The pair at first seem distant from each other, slowly discovering a passionate lust. Elio is seventeen but looks even more boyish, whilst Oliver is very much a man. The sun and swimming pools prompt both characters to spend much of the film wearing very little, providing physical contrasts in masculinity which become as engaging as anything being said, or not said. Director Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) certainly has an eye for a complex romance played out before idyllic Italian waters, again mixing tenderness with moral ambiguity to make his audience constantly engage with his characters’ choices. The pace is slow, making the payoff rich thanks to a pair of nuanced performances.
Chalamet provides a breakout performance in this coming-of-age role. His character is filled with a sense of lust and exploration, whilst also remaining somewhat emotionally distant and unsure of himself, which provides him with a beautiful vulnerability. The romance between Elio and Oliver is constantly engaging and surprising, filled with raw lust. The depth of Chalamet’s performance builds slowly, with the character growing as his experiences unravel gradually, culminating in two wonderful moments of catharsis at the film’s climax. Just when you think the film might be ready to end coldly, it provides a gorgeously written and performed speech from Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), which is then followed with a memorable and devastating final shot merging with the credits. Both of these moments make an excellent coming-of-age film even more meaningful and thought provoking.
Review by David Rank
Call Me By Your Name is out on 27th October in the UK and on 24th November in the US. Certificate 15 (UK). Running time: 130 mins.