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TIFF Review: Call Me By Your Name – “Nothing other than extraordinary”

Once in a while a movie comes along that just immerses you – for two hours you can be transported into the world of the characters on screen.  You feel their joy, their sorrow, their heartache.  A well told story allows for all of these emotions to come alive, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in this film.  Believe all the good things you have already heard about Call Me By Your Name.  They are all true.

Based on the novel by Andre Aciman, the film takes place during the summer of 1983 somewhere in northern Italy.  It’s here we meet the teenaged Elio (Timothee Chalamet), who spends his summers here largely reading and transcribing music to while away the hours.  His father (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a history professor, and each summer he invites a scholar into their beautiful villa.  This summer, that doctorate student happens to be Oliver (Armie Hammer).

When he arrives, Elio mentions to his parents that Oliver seems arrogant, rude – often leaving the breakfast table with just a cooly delivered, “Later”.  However, a friendship soon blossoms, brought together by a love of history, books and that impeccable Italian countryside.  The two embark on trips into town, swimming holes, and enjoying the company of the other young people in town.  But soon their feelings develop, and in their own shorthand, they are able to communicate this desire, even in an environment where their developing relationship is still something for which to feel shame.  Their journey is a love story that even though it’s set in 1983, is equally for the here and now.

Since this movie premiered at Sundance early this year it has earned only accolades and it’s easy to see why.  Director Luca Guadagnino has crafted a sensitive, sensual story set amongst the luscious Italian countryside that simply just resonates.  He notes that the first cut of the film was over four hours long.  He’s almost halved it for the final print, but this is the rare movie where you’d be happy to keep living this story for any amount of time (director’s cut please Luca?).   His partnership with music supervisor Gerry Gershon only highlights the beauty and age of the film – coupling piano score with 80’s ready sounds.  It would be a shame not to see Guadagnino’s name in the best director category at the Oscars, even if only for the final shot of the film which leaves an everlasting impression.

This film does not exist however without the exceptional performances of its two leading men, Chalamet and Hammer.  Their chemistry and presence is all at once charming and intimate.  With Chalamet, in pretty well every scene of the film, he anchors the narrative with expertise beyond his young years.  However, the one to not be overlooked here is Michael Stuhlbarg.  As Elio’s father, he absolutely inspires with paternal love.  He has probably the most moving moment of the story and being close to the end of the movie I would watch the film again in an instant to witness the perfection that is that scene and the aforementioned final shot.  That said, I will watch the entire film again regardless.

It’s hard to fault much in this film – from the brilliant acting, the beautiful cinematography and incredible screenplay from James Ivory culminate in an exquisite piece of cinema.  You all at once experience the bliss and heartache of these men and are thankful for the journey.  I sincerely hope that come awards season the praise for this film can continue.  Call Me By Your Name can be called nothing other than extraordinary.

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