Film Festival Movie Review

Film Review: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME: Distinctly European Sensuality [Sundance 2017]

Michael Stuhlbarg Timothee Chalamet Armie Hammer Call Me By Your Name Review

Call Me By Your Name Review

Call Me By Your Name (2017), Film Review from the 33rd Annual Sundance Film Festival, a movie directed by Luca Guadagnino, starring Armie Hammer, Timothée ChalametMichael StuhlbargAmira CasarEsther Garrel, and Victoire du Bois.

As the sleeper hit of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Call Me By Your Name landed softly to critical acclaim that spread rapidly among the festival. The end results have been bold 2018 Oscar predictions as well the as the topping of an informal IndieWire poll of film critics as the best film of this year’s festival. The same calls were made about Manchester By The Sea last year, and those calls turned out to be correct; only time can tell if the same fate lies in store for this distinctively European film about an unexpected romance between two men.

Instantly roping the audience in with a mesmerizing performance is Timothée Chalamet as Elio, the seventeen-year-old musical prodigy of a college professor who hosts a resident scholar at his Italian Riviera home for a summer of research. This year it’s twenty-four-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer), a tall, sexually ambiguous, and entrancing figure who exudes a sensuality that surprises even the most liberal of Europeans. Elio’s insatiable curiosity, well-read nature, and liberal home environment combine explosively with Oliver’s sense of adventure,

Told largely through an observational lens characterized by long stretches of relatively little dialogue, the film is uniquely European and may test the patience of some audiences. It doesn’t deliver the in-your-face results or obviousness that American audiences have been conditioned to accept. It may serve them well, however, to experience the masterful nurturing and eventual collision of an oozing sexual attraction that both men clearly didn’t expect (and even resist at times).

The dialogue between them is rich with subtext, infused with a level of self-awareness peculiar for a film about what will inevitably (and unfortunately) be perceived as a controversial topic. In a welcome explanation of his approach to the film, director Luca Guadagnino explained to Sundance audiences that he wanted the film to celebrate the coming together of two men who have fallen in love rather than explore the pain and suffering typical of LGBT romances.

He pulls this off excellently. The upbeat classical score and higher-level dialogue complement the idea that this romance is acceptable and beautiful, unfolding organically just as the summer flowers bloom naturally in the lingering and sensuous shots of the Italian countryside. It culminates in a feeling that we are as intimately close and mutually vulnerable with Elio and Oliver as they are with each other.

The film also ends on an incredibly moving and, yes, Oscar-worthy monologue by Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). It is simply stunning in its display of honorable and wise parenting. It also illustrates once again the complexities of human sexuality, parent-child dynamics within the traditional parent-child triad, and the best example of self-acceptance I’ve ever seen or heard. Much of the credit for this incredible and touching feat belongs to André Aciman (the author of the book of the same name) as this monologue is taken from the novel nearly verbatim. Stuhlbarg also deserves credit, however; he pulls it off with apparent ease and it’s difficult to imagine another actor pulling it off in the same breathtaking fashion. Isn’t that the definition of an Oscar-worthy performance?

Call Me By Your Name is screening at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival in the non-competitive Premieres category and has been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics for a planned 2017 theatrical release.

Rating: 9/10

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Image Source: Sundance Institute

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About the author

Drew Stelter

Drew is a 26-year-old film buff. A native Utahan, he attends the Sundance Film Festival annually. He is a member of the Salt Lake Film Society. In a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he attended the Oscars Red Carpet on March 2, 2014, after winning an essay contest through the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At any given time he can be expected to be conversing via movie quote GIFs.

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