This review contains what I would consider spoilers, because at last I’m just giving in. Do know that any smartass comparisons to the subject matter have already been noted, by me when I made them at myself.
It was the last workday before our holiday break, so I sailed into this movie on some almost cinnamon-y champagne brought around by one of my coworkers. Champagne always comes over you rather faster than you expect with all those bubbles, leaving you a little spun and already wondering just what you’ve gotten yourself into. Sometimes I think champagne tastes brighter and more beguiling for how you know at the first sip that you’ll likely regret this, but hell, it’ll be sweet as you go down.
So, Call Me By Your Name. Hand of god deliver me.
It’s a yearning romance gorgeous enough to make your heart momentarily forget what it’s doing, then rush back in sending dizzy numbing warmth all through your arms and legs. Maybe that’s called sumptuous. Maybe that’s called ravishing. Maybe it’s the most vibrantly drawn love story I’ve seen in ages, maybe that.
Even though— well, even though. Even though at one point when they’re rueing how long it took them to get together, Oliver protests that he’d given Elio a sign that he liked him back at the beginning of the summer, when he’d tried to massage a knot out of his bare shoulder (a Classic Move™, hilarious that everyone around seems to think this guy has some sort of new level game), “—and you acted like I’d molested you!” and it just, it lances, because oh my god Oliver, he’s too young! He’s too young you shouldn’t, he’s 17, oh god he’s only 17. And, hell though, 18 is just a line in the sand, it’s a line in the damn sand, and…maybe when you’re a man who loves men in 1983, maybe…maybe you take this rare precious thing within your reach, reaching for you. Because he is precious, Elio, he’s exquisite. And when Oliver starts showing his giddy nervous heart, then it feels equal, because they’re equally lost to each other.
It aches to watch them together. They’re so devastatingly beautiful, clumsy and perfect and weird with want. God bless Timothée Chalamet by the way for just helplessly climbing Armie Hammer like a tree, in the most literally rendered take on that phrase I’ve ever seen on film. Honestly though where did they find this kid, fluent in French, fluent in movement, this sweet graceful awkwardness. Chalamet is incandescent, the glowing heart of this movie. And Armie Hammer is marvelous as a smart, loose-limbed grad student who turns out to be so young as well. The music is flawless, the elegant ramshackle Italian villa crushingly aesthetic, the pacing a dream, the shorts: sublime. And somehow at the end, when you think you’ve passed the most breathless heights, Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a gentle father’s monologue that takes the whole house down, and then a long, unbroken shot of Timothée Chalamet’s face holds you there, too tender to move.
I think part of the warm magic of this movie is in the reverence it has for the details, the tactile memory of this one heart-turning summer—and then in turn, the magic that magic works is in cracking us open and letting our own bright sorrow come spilling out. I mean, I have not ever spent a languid summer in a constant state of dishabille and longing in northern Italy, but when I, a dummy, started listening to the soundtrack while driving to my parents’ house the next morning, I started sobbing two lines into ‘Visions of Gideon’ for reasons that were decidedly personal and had apparently never been fully released, until this movie came along.
I guess maybe what I’m saying is that Call Me By Your Name can be a sort of champagne-soaked catharsis, if that’s something you’re open to in your cinematic experiences.