“…and I’ll call you by mine.”
Sometimes you’ll see a film at such a perfect moment that it will break your heart completely. That happened yesterday when I was watching Call Me By Your Name, when I was thinking about it for the rest of that evening and when I woke up in the early hours of this morning. It’s a tale of first love – the blissful agony and all-consuming ecstasy that comes with it, that uncertainty that comes from not knowing how the other person feels and the utter fear of being torn between confessing your adour or fearing it will destroy you if you keep it bottled up for much longer. Told at a carefully unravelling pace, this is the most empathy-inducing portrayal of love at almost tortuous (wonderfully so!) that’s been on the screen in a long time, and certainly the most lingering.
1983. Smart and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman (relative newcomer Timothée Chalamet) spends his summers with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. Every year an international student will come to stay with them, assisting Elio’s professor father in return for being able to undertake their own work in truly beautiful surroundings. Each student differs vastly, some more burden and some more joy than others. Oliver (an effervescent Armie Hammer) is different. Elio notices it straight away, he’s drawn to Oliver. He desires him. But the supremely confident Oliver’s behaviour, sometimes distant and sometimes overly familiar, makes it impossible for Elio to work out how Oliver feels. But uncertainty can only hold them back for so long…
It’s almost impossible to construct full sentences to communicate this how wonderful a movie this is. Sumptuous cinematography. Truly heartfelt performances. A soundtrack that demands repeat listening. A carefully told story that unravels intimately, wistfully and sensually. Like the most joyous of lazy summers, it unwinds and plays out. Days flow by, one into the next, full of learning and yearning – the most momentous times of our lives, yet we only realise that when they’re over.
Every scene with Elio and Oliver is an utter joy to watch, their chemistry and bond apparent from that first meeting. It would be possible to pick just one standout scene, though when pushed I’d have to pick the scene at the War Memorial. The standout scene of the entire film full stop has to go the monologue Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) delivers to his son – it’s about the nature of love and its wondrous awfulness, how we mustn’t push away the inevitable pain as that will destroy ability to feel anything at all. It’s raw, exposing and heart-bearing.
Just like the film as a whole.
Love itself encapsulated on celluloid.