Sundance 2017: Sweaty, Sensual Masterpiece 'Call Me By Your Name'
by Alex Billington
January 24, 2017
Have you ever seen a film that is so incredible, so extraordinary in every way, that when it's over you feel totally drunk on happiness, high on cinema, floating away with huge smile? That's how I felt walking out of the world premiere of Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name at the Sundance Film Festival. This film is a masterpiece. Everything about it is so wonderful and so moving and so unforgettable. Call Me By Your Name is the latest film by Luca Guadagnino, adapted from André Aciman's book of the same name, about the sexual awakening / coming-of-age of a young boy from Italy. It's a sweaty, sultry, seductive story infused with sensuality and intense intimacy. An utterly sublime cinematic experience that left me floored.
Where do I even start with this, how do I even properly explain why it's so amazing? Call Me By Your Name stars Timothée Chalamet as Elio, a teenager living with his Jewish-American-French-Italian family in the Italian countryside. They invite a summer guest to their home, Oliver played by Armie Hammer, and over the course of the summer Elio and Oliver start to get closer and closer. At first, they seem to ignore each other, but eventually the sexual tension gets so intense there is practically steam coming out of the screen. It's a beautiful love story but much more than that, as the relationship between Elio and his parents (played by Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) is a key part of the story as well. Guadagnino directs all of them in performances that seem so utterly real, making it even more emotional to watch them fall for each other.
Call Me By Your Name is also one of those films that truly takes viewers to another time and place, set in the early 1980s in Italy. I completely forgot I was in snowy Park City for two hours, feeling whisked away to the sun-drenched countryside. It's hard to even explain how Luca Guadagnino achieves this, because he makes everything seem so effortless, though he clearly has an extraordinary amount of skill as a filmmaker. The cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is lush with unique angles, a large part of what makes it so easy to be feel lost in this world. The music selection, a mix of diegetic songs and a lovely score, brings even more depth to the film. I desperately want to see it again as soon as I can, and dive right back into this world, forgetting about whatever is going on outside of the cinema and finding more and more to appreciate.
The performances from both Timothée Chalamet & Armie Hammer are wonderful, holding back when they need to, and letting loose at the right moments. However, it's Chalamet that delivers a truly unforgettable performance, his glances speaking volumes about his emotions, without ever having to say a word about them. The final shot in the film is remarkable, one of the best in any film we'll see this year. And there's so many other moments leading up to that ending that will stick with me for days, months, maybe even years. There's a conversation that Michael Stuhlbarg's character has with Elio near the end that I need a transcript of to refer to often, because it's absolute perfection. We need more movies like this, that are so heartening.
This is the kind of unforgettable film that I hope to discover at film festivals, a breathtaking work of cinema that leaves us all floating on cloud nine because it's so totally magnificent. I spent hours talking about it with a friend after, and will continue to talk about it with other friends over and over again. This film left me in such a great mood, I was dancing around the streets with a smile that wouldn't go away. Guadagnino has made his first masterpiece, and I wouldn't be surprised if he makes a few more down the line. This guy definitely knows how to direct, he knows how to tell a story, he knows how to take us to another place, he knows how to bring out the best in actors, and he knows how to make films that leave a lasting impression.
Alex's Sundance 2017 Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing