Not since the John Hughes films of the 1980s (or perhaps Donnie Darko in 2001) has a film so perfectly captured the pain and thrill of first love and adolescence so beautifully, and not since Brokeback Mountain has a film explored LGBTIQ themes so tenderly.
In Call Me By Your Name, the world of 17-year-old Elio (a revelatory Timothée Chalamet) is turned upside down when square-jawed, tanned, all American Oliver (Armie Hammer) comes to stay at his academic family’s stunning estate in Northern Italy as part of a graduate placement with his professor, Elio’s father (an also brilliant Michael Stuhlbarg).
Until this point, Elio has had a summer romance with Marzia (Esther Garrel), but upon Oliver’s arrival, we slowly see that perhaps Elio’s attentions are focused elsewhere. Neither Elio nor Oliver seem to be aware or certain of their sexuality and Oliver, in particular, is cautious.
Seeing their romance unfold is a joy and as well as being deeply sensual, the film is surprisingly funny; a sure-to-become-infamous scene involving a peach is equal parts hilarious and cringe-inducing.
What’s so refreshing about Call Me By Your Name is that there’s no big coming out moment; the drama here doesn’t come from a fear of Elio’s parents finding out about his feelings for Oliver because it’s clear that they’re aware of what’s going on, and they’re fine with it. It’s also refreshing to see an LGBTIQ-themed film where no one is murdered in a hate crime or dying of AIDS (last year’s Moonlight is also a recent exception); it’s just a love story to rival the greats, and the fact of the characters’ sexuality is incidental.
Chamalet is a standout, as is Stuhlbarg. I was lucky enough to see Call Me By Your Name at the Adelaide Film Festival, and towards the end of the film, the whole audience could be heard audibly weeping during a scene between the two.
The film sounds fantastic, too – with a mix of classical and ’80s staples, the soundtrack also features Sufjan Stevens, who contributes his first original work for film to stunning affect. The Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” is featured as a motif throughout, and the song perfectly sums up the melancholy joy of the story and of first love.
Having already collected a swag of awards, Call Me By Your Name looks quite rightly set to repeat Moonlight’s success come Oscar time. It is easily one of the best films of 2017.
Call Me By Your Name opens in Adelaide cinemas on Boxing Day.
Luca Guadagnino was recently announced as the director of the film adaptation of Adelaide author Hannah Kent’s novel Burial Rites, which will star actress Jennifer Lawrence.
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