Sunday, December 31, 2017

Call Me by Your Name

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

As I stated in my review of The Big Sick back in July, most romantic films manage to be very formualic, following the exact same plotline that had grown tiresome 30 years ago. But every once in a while, there manages to be a film that defies those cliches & becomes a treasure.

Call Me by Your Name has been one of my most anticipated films of the year ever since its premiere at Sundance back in January, with the acclaim being near-unanimous. After its premiere, I waited anxiously until August, when the trailer was released, hyping me up for this film even more. And when I heard it was coming to Detroit 2 weeks earlier than originally stated, I was so happy. I saw it on a Thursday night screening, in a packed theater, 3 rows from the screen, & I was waiting to see if it met my expectations. It didn't meet my expectations. It surpassed them, & it ended up being such a beautiful cinematic experience.

Call Me by Your Name has become one of those aforementioned treasures, & is definitely one of the best romantic films of all time. Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman & set in 1983 Italy, the film follows Elio Perlman (played by Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old American boy spending the summer in the Italian countryside with his parents, Annella (played by Amira Casar) & Samuel (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). They go to their Italian villa for the summer, Hanukkah & Christmas, since his mother is Christian & his father is Jewish. He spends his time reading books, transcribing music, swimming in the river, going out at night, & hanging out with his girlfriend, Marzia (played by Esther Garrel).

Samuel, an archeology professor, invites one of his students, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old Jewish-American graduate student, to live with them for 6 weeks & help Samuel with archeology work. As a result, Elio gives up his room for Oliver & now sleeps in the spare room, which he deeply resents. Also, Elio, besides their shared Jewish heritage, finds little in common with Oliver, who is more extroverted & carefree, always ending conversations by saying "Later!" Also, Oliver gains attraction from Chiara (played by Victoire Du Bois), a local woman.

The tension between Elio & Oliver is small, but eventually calms when Elio & Oliver come to a truce, eventually starting a friendship. Eventually, Elio becomes attracted to Oliver, & the courtship begins with swims in the river & walks in the town. Their relationship starts to grow further into something more. Together, they navigate their relationship through the summer & become more intimate, finding in each other a true soulmate.

The cast is phenomenal. Timothée Chalamet is an absolute revelation. With this, Hostiles, & Lady Bird, Chalamet has become a major name in Hollywood this year. His performance is the best lead male performance of the year, & as a result, I hope he wins the Oscar for Best Actor. He has the charm of a young Leonardo DiCaprio & the range of a young Edward Norton. He goes through so many emotions throughout the film, & portrays them all so beautifully. Also, he portrays the conflicting feelings of a person coming to terms with their sexual orientation so realistically.

Armie Hammer is also phenomenal. Hammer, who has already given some great performances, namely in 2010's The Social Network & 2011's J. Edgar, has given the best performance of his career. Like Chalamet, Hammer portrays so many different emotions so beautifully, & portrays the conflicting sexual feelings so realistically. Also, his chemistry with Chalamet is so believable that you would believe that they feel like a real couple. He deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Michael Stuhlbarg is also phenomenal. With this, The Shape of Water, & The Post, Stuhlbarg is starting to get the recognition he deserves after years of being one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. This is the best performance of his career, even better than his excellent performance in 2009's A Serious Man. He is such an absolute scene-stealer in this film, &, in one scene, will leave you in tears. He also deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The rest of the cast, especially Casar & Garrel, is also excellent, playing such small but pivotal roles to perfection.

Luca Guadagnino's direction is outstanding. After having directed independent film successes such as 2009's I Am Love & 2015's A Bigger Splash, Guadagnino has directed his best film yet. Guadagnino's direction is subdued, exerting a calmly arresting atmosphere.

James Ivory's screenplay is beautiful. His screenplay has wonderfully adapted Aciman's novel to the big screen. The screenplay feels so beautifully real. Also, I commend Ivory for his screenplay's positive representation of an LGBTQ+ couple. There aren't any fighting or sad backstories. It's just a loving & beautiful portrayal of a relationship that is sure to connect with all audiences, LGBTQ+ or straight.

Sayohmbu Mukdeeprom's cinematography is gorgeous. Shot on 35mm film, Mukdeeprom's cinematography beautifully captures the relationship & the beautiful sun-draped Italian landscape.

Walter Fasano's editing is excellent. The pacing is perfectly slow, letting the story slowly unfold. There is not a single bad cut in the film, & the film knows where it's going at every moment.

And Sufjan Stevens's original songs are hauntingly beautiful. Stevens, one of my favorite artists of all time, an indie folk artist from Detroit, wrote 2 songs for the film: Mystery of Love & Visions of Gideon, along with a remix of his song Futile Devices from his 2010 album The Age of Adz. All these songs are so amazing, with Mystery of Love being a beautiful portrayal of first love, & Visions of Gideon being a haunting reflection on lost love. Since the Futile Devices remix is ineligible, I hope either Mystery of Love or Visions of Gideon gets nominated & wins the Oscar for Best Original Song, as they are both equally deserving of the award.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year, & one of the best films I've ever seen. It features phenomenal performances, a beautiful screenplay, & some amazing music from the one & only Sufjan Stevens.

Call Me by Your Name was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Thursday, December 28, 2017. It is in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; it will expand to more theaters this Friday, January 5 & next Friday, January 12, & will be in theaters everywhere Friday, January 19. Its runtime is 132 minutes, & it is rated R for sexual content, nudity & some language.

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