Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Quite often novels that I read tend to be of film adaptations that are coming soon; I like the idea of reading the book first, then seeing how a director will interpret it for the big screen. This is how I came across André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. Luca Guadagnino’s previous two films really impressed me, and so I sought out the book he was working on as his next film. It proved fairly difficult to get a hold of in London, but I found a copy, and while Guadagnino is what led me to it, I feel like I was meant to find this book, and only wish I had come across it earlier in my life.
My absolute adoration for this book led to such high expectations for the adaptation, but also a certain degree of nervousness. I so wanted the film to be everything the book was, and in majority of cases, that is an almost irrational expectation to hold from any film adaptation. But Luca Guadagnino does right by Aciman’s novel, and Call Me By Your Name is everything I expect from a big screen version of it.
I have a history of seeing my top films of any given year at the London Film Festival, and this where I first watched Call Me By Your Name. It immediately shot up to the top of my list for 2017, and potentially replaces Andrew Haigh’s Weekend as my favourite LGBT-film ever (though time will tell if that holds). In fact, the two have one very similar train-station scene. (I think it’s the Bollywood fan in me that makes me have a thing about scenes in train stations.)
I don’t even know where to begin which everything I need to praise about this film.
The novel has been adapted faithfully, keeping in so much of what makes it so special. I also loved how it seamlessly uses French and Italian as well as English. In some parallel universe, there’s an all English version, which might be a decent film, but wouldn’t really transport you quite so immersively to this small unnamed Italian town. I can’t think of an example of when Italy isn’t presented beautifully on film, and so to say that CMBYN does this would understate Guadagnino and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s work. But it does. Shot in a northern Italian town called Crema (according to IMDB), it is both familiar in the way we know Italy on film, but not so familiar that we feel like we’ve been there before. But I certainly want to go there now.
And then there’s the performances. Even before seeing the film, or even completing the novel, Armie Hammer made perfect sense as Oliver. Even if he hadn’t given a great performance (which he definitely does), I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with him epitomising the good-looking American visitor. I expected to be charmed and captivated by Hammer in the film, and I was, but Timothée Chalamet completed bowled me over. To think he’s the weird kid from Homeland (which I didn’t watch after Season 2, and I barely remember him from Interstellar), I found it hard to articulate in tweets quite how impressed I was by him following the screening. Having seen the film, Guadagnino’s casting choice makes complete sense, but Chalamet genuinely is incredible, and I found myself relating to him just as much as I related to Elio in the novel. And the two of them together – their chemistry needs to be seen. Any way any critic or anyone describes it won’t quite do it justice.
Michael Stuhlbarg is wonderful as Elio’s father. There was only one moment in which I unsure of his performance, when Elio and him have a heart-to-heart, which made me question whether he was unintentionally or intentionally adding a dimension to the character that either I missed in the novel or he misunderstood. But based on the giggles and murmur that it caused amongst the audience around me, I definitely wasn’t the only one to read it that way. If Guadagnino and Stuhlbarg put it in intentionally, I don’t like it, as it is an unnecessary complexity to an already loveable character. It is possibly my only criticism of the entire film.
The only other “criticism” I might have, is not really a criticism at all, nor would I expect anyone else to feel this about it, but I feel like I would have liked more time to lap it all up. The novel obviously takes longer to read than the 2 hours and 12 minutes the film lasts, but I would have happily sat there and watched the film follow the pace that the novel does. Elio’s angst and frustration and confusion is all there in the film, but 2 hours doesn’t allow it to be explored fully. But Timothée Chalamet does so much with the given time, that I can forgive pretty much anything.
I know already before it has even gone on general release here in the UK, I will no doubt see it again on the big screen soon. And I cannot wait.
Call Me By Your Name releases in the UK on October 27th, and in the USA on November 24th.