I’ve been thinking about this for over a week. “What am I going to say about Call Me By Your Name, a film that matters a great deal to several people who mean a lot to me in order to convey that I admire it while explaining my caveat?”
While dreaming last night–I kid you not–it came to me.
First the laudatory.
The performances (save Michael Stuhlbarg’s dad speech to Elio, which was too spot on for even this talented actor to deliver with a convincing face) are as lush and vibrant as the Italian countryside.
And, speaking of the landscape, who doesn’t want to summer there? The location evokes a mood that is both languid and fresh, restful and inspiring, primal and cerebral. These dichotomies create a tension that benefits the tone of the film and fits its themes as a coming of age story for a gay teenager who is different from other people because of his intellect and courage.
My problem with the film rests in another dichotomy, one that does not work so well for me, even though I admit that it should…on paper if not in practice.
The first part of the film is a bit fragmented. The elisions (or, what I perceived that way after a single viewing) even out as the film unfolds. Arguably, this mirrors a process that is internal for Elio (the exquisite Timothée Chalamet) as he seeks a connection with the older and also worldly Oliver (Armie Hammer), but that is not precisely how it plays out on screen.
Love can be messy. The same applies to films. Messiness does not (always) undermine evocative power, however.
Two additional points:
1) After admiring his work for decades, it’s nice to see James Ivory still in the game.
2) Watching Call Me By Your Name has made me think repeatedly of Hiroshima Mon Amour, a film that has meant more to me almost every time I’ve watched it.
Perhaps the same will turn out to be true, at least in some degree, for Call Me By Your Name.