TIFF 2017 Call Me by Your Name

TIFF 2017: Call Me By Your Name Review

Special Presentations/ Next Wave 

Call Me By Your Name is a coming of age tale of sexual experimentation, academia, lounging, and peaches that couldn’t be more specific in it’s origins. Yet, there’s something about the way that director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) captures and casts the flick that somehow elevates the material into something universal. This is a passionate love story that actually manages to find room for the uncomfortably overwhelming emotions and honest reflections that allow the story to play as more than a fairy tale. It’s a film that will touch all those who know such feelings, no matter how different their experiences may have been.  

Timothée Chalamet stars as the prodigy son of an academic father (Michael Stuhlbarg) and loving mother (Amira Casar) who live a life of luxury, relaxation, and ridiculously sumptuous food in early 80s Italy. Every summer the Stuhlbarg hosts a grad student and this year it’s Armie Hammer, with all the dapper hunkiness that implies. Slowly Chalamet and Hammer do a lil’ flirtatious dance and fall for each other, but only after the boy makes his first moves with a girl. It’s a sensuous and rapturous ode to first love that plays out through images of postcard beauty and moments of almost embarrassing honesty. Throughout it all Guadagnino balances sumptuous cinematic style with delicate drama. Somehow neither side overwhelms the other.

That’s a more difficult balancing act to pull off than it seems, one that Guadagnino hasn’t quite achieved himself before now. In doing so, he reaches a new plateau as a filmmaking and feels like a vital voice in international cinema rather than a promising one. The performances are remarkable across the board and the script from James Ivory (best known for writing the stuffiest of British chamber dramas in the 90s) bounces along with impressively breezy naturalism. There are two scenes in particular that will sear their way into any viewer’s mind. One delightfully perverse moment with a peach designed for giggling gasps and the other a beautiful (and painful) monologue of remarkably sensitive fatherly advice. For a film to be daring or wise enough to contain and deserve either scene would make it a success, to have room for both is what makes Call Me By Your Name truly special.