Now, on the surface you wouldn’t be blamed for being somewhat apprehensive about a romantic narrative unfolding between a grown-up and the teenage offspring of his colleague, who he is lodging with for the summer. And yet not many films spring to mind that evoke such conviction from the viewer, as we fervently, and desperately want the aforementioned protagonists to get together, such is the sheer celebration of love that is depicted in Luca Guadagnino’s masterful drama Call Me By Your Name.
Set in Italy, Michael Stuhlbarg plays Professor Perlman, who lives with his wife Anella (Amira Casar) and their 17 year old son Elio (Timothee Chalamet) – as a family who often welcome in students to assist with the former’s work, and the latest to join them in their glorious abode for the summer, is Oliver (Armie Hammer). His good lucks and ineffable charm certainly seems to make him a hit amongst the women in the neighbourhood, but none of them become as infatuated as Elio, who falls hopelessly in love. While their American visitor may represent something of a fantasy, the teenager’s dreams soon become a reality, for Oliver too develops feelings, as the pair embark on an intense, secretive relationship.
Guadagnino captures that summer romance feeling so triumphantly, that glorious coming together between two people that is spiked, persistently, with the profound realisation that there’s a time limit placed upon it, that it can’t last forever, and in some ways, that’s what makes it so intimate and special. Also given the fact the two leads are seeing each other discreetly, it adds a forbidden love element to proceedings, and in a similar vein to Todd Haynes’ Carol, it means we linger on every little touch and the most subtle of glances.
But in order for this to work, we require strong performances, and Chalamet and Hammer are simply magnetic in the leading roles. The former is outstanding as Elio, not just internally, as he’s trying to make sense of all these new emotions in his head, falling in love for the first time, discovering his sexuality for the first time, but the physical too – the small, nuanced additions such as the way he touches his beck when he feels nervous. And yet while it will be the two actors who take the majority of the plaudits, there is one breathtaking scene featuring Stuhlbarg that is about as compelling and wondrous as cinema can be, that is emblematic of just how special a movie this is.
The aesthetic too is indelible, and while perhaps not as striking as Guadagnino’s preceding endeavour A Bigger Splash in that department, that feature was lacking in substance, but this feature more than compensates. Just to ensure we have a full house and basically nothing at all to criticise, even the soundtrack is excellent. Actually wait, maybe there is one problem with the film – you’ll probably go off peaches for a while. But that’s genuinely about it.