Netflix UK film review: Call Me By Your Name
Ivan Radford | On 27, Feb 2018Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg
Watch Call Me By Your Name online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
1983. Summer. “Somewhere in the north of Italy.” Where? It doesn’t matter, because Call Me By Your Name is too busy soaking up the feel of the place – a feeling of curiosity, excitement and arousal.
That’s the mood bubbling inside Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the 17-year-old son of Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor who’s just invited an American, Oliver (Armie Hammer), to stay. Hammer’s academic hits Elio hard with his combination of languorous physicality and intellectual confidence, not to mention his charming smile and apparent interest in him.
Director Luca Guadagnino finds that thrilling limbo of possibility and luxuriates in it with abandon, crafting a swooning, pulsating, bulging piece of art that is waiting to burst with the joy of emotional and sexual discovery. It’s a spirit that is gorgeously echoed by the duo’s surroundings, lensed by Guadagnino with his typical eye for nature, food, sunlight and an almost tangible, clinging heat; despite being largely a two-hander, this expansive, infectious drama makes A Bigger Splash look like a mild dip.
The cast slip into their roles effortlessly, and Chalamet’s tender, vulnerable intensity is mesmerising. Oliver, meanwhile, grabs every fruit going, whether waiting to be plucked or squeezed into a glass, gulping its juice until their are no drops left. He’s a man of appetite, played by Hammer with an unabashed relish that leaves your jaw hanging – if you’re hot under the collar after watching this Herculean figure each breakfast, wait until you see him bite into a peach. Together, our lead couple are stupendous, both encouraging each other and keeping their counterpart in check through a wise sense of caution; they’re organic and spontaneous in every interaction, and even more so in hesitation.
That’s the main obstacle to their ripening affections – Elio’s sort-of girlfriend, Marzia (Esther Garrel), falls somewhat by the wayside, but in a way that deliciously avoids melodrama or contrived confrontations. 89 year old James Ivory pens the script, adapted from the novel by André Aciman, with the vigour and passion of a young boy, finding room for Greco-Roman sculptures, historical slideshows and archaeological excavations, but also the fizzing thrill of sharing a swimming pool with your crush.
The result is a rapturous ode to first love, which understands the importance of both awakening and breaking your heart – and treasuring every fragment you’re left with. That, in itself, marks this out as a sublime piece of filmmaking, but it’s Michael Stuhlbarg’s generous supporting turn that elevates this to something timeless. While we only have eyes for Elio and Oliver, he quietly smiles in the background, doing so much to make this swelteringly affair convincing without once taking the scene away from his son. It’s a smile that speaks of sympathy, support and maybe even sharing in that same transient bliss. Heartbreakingly beautiful, this is impossibly ravishing cinema.
Call Me By Your Name is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.