How can any review rightfully describe Call Me By Your Name? I had the immense privilege of seeing it at Sundance before 99.99% of the world, so now I am one of the select few in charge of p(r)eaching the gospel that is Call Me By Your Name. This film is simply a masterpiece, possibly the best romance film of all time, and one of the best films of all time as well.
The plot is basic, but it is how the story is told through the actors, the imagery, and the music where the film shines. The son of an academic (Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet) falls in love, perhaps hopelessly, with a visiting student (Oliver, played by Armie Hammer) who is staying with his family "somewhere in northern Italy." Almost all reviewers will describe it as a gay romance, some will say it's just about two people falling in love (and they will get criticized for trying to downplay the sexuality of the characters), but at its core it is about two people who fall in love with one another but have difficulty realizing that the other feels the same way. It is a universal film about love, sensuality, longing, and being true to oneself.
While most romance films are unrealistic, melodramatic, or otherwise uninspired, Call Me By Your Name is anything but. The first hour is tension-filled with innuendo in the actions between the main characters and the other people in the story that realistically captures the delicate dance involved in flirting. The passion that develops is palpable, with some of the best love scenes to grace the cinema - complete with the awkwardness involved. The ending may be predictable, but how everything plays out is a masterclass of film-making.
The final monologue between father and son towards the end will be the highlight for most people. Michael Stahlbarg gives a breathtaking performance as he calmly provides his son comfort, but most importantly, acceptance. However, the emotional peak of the film truly comes at its end, with a haunting final shot that will stay with me forever. Timothee Chalamet is a revelation and is destined to become one of modern cinema's finest actors. Armie Hammer finally has a role that allows him to shine. While many will be surprised at the casting on paper, it is a testament to the actors that you can truly feel the passion between their characters so much that the pairing feels like destiny.
Call Me By Your Name is a moving film that stays with you, leaving a dark depression for days that arises not from what happens in the movie, but how it is shown. It is so beautiful, but heart-wrenching at the same time, that it reminds us how amazing life is despite that our desires are not always, if ever, truly fulfilled. The film teaches the viewer important life lessons that have already deeply impacted me as a person and how I intend to live my life. The central question it asks is best summarized through a question asked by a character in the film: "Is it better to speak, or to die?" After the film, one can only leave with one logical conclusion: To speak, because to die, is to die without ever knowing the answer. And for Elio, regardless of how the relationship ends up (see the film!), at least he knows the answer.
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