Reviewed by George Loftus, BA History
2hr 12min, currently playing in Cinemas
There is a scene in Luca Guadanigno’s film Call Me By Your Name in which the two main characters, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), stop and consider a World War One monument. Situated within one of the many brilliantly realised locations of Lombardy during the Summer of 1983, the scene illustrates much of what makes the film so wonderful. Using a series of long tracking shots, Elio and Oliver’s conversation drips with the anticipation of a relationship soon to be realised. The camera pans toward the ever-present crucifix above a church, highlighting those wider societal elements that make such a relationship so difficult.
Much has been said of Call Me By Your Name’s depiction of love and loss as universal, but in fact the film is uniquely queer in the ways it depicts the love between these two men. Cinematic depictions of homosexual relationships usually portray their dynamics as identical to heterosexual ones, or the relationships themselves as doomed and traumatic. In contrast to these established models, Call Me By Your Name chooses instead to let its characters engage in a free, equal and openly sexual and loving relationship, limited by the obvious constraints of said love in a homophobic society. The film’s continuing focus on, and subversion of, audience expectations of the power dynamics of such a relationship, heightened by Elio’s precocious intellectualism and the age gap between the two men, is key to its depiction of a sympathetic, realistic and understatedly tragic gay love.
In many ways Call Me By Your Name recalls 2015’s Carol, directed by Todd Haynes. Whilst sharing its outlook on the nature of queerness, Haynes’s film also shares the aesthetic qualities of Call Me By Your Name. Guadanigno and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom beautifully recreate a 1980s summer in a semi-deserted corner of northern Italy. The soundtrack evokes this well realised world; specifically wonderful is the use of The Psychedelic Furs song ‘Love My Way’, an audible of motif of the central relationship.
Above the thematic and aesthetic qualities though, Call Me By Your Name is a deeply moving story of a fleeting but passionate love. Elio and Oliver’s romance is both deeply emotional and sensuous, the tension between the two seductively drawn out and isolated by their setting. Call Me By Your Name is fantastic and well worth seeing.