Call Me by Your Name suffers from our own grandiosity. The praise Luca Guadagnino’s Italian romance has garnered is fine and deserved in theory. But it’s the ways in which we talk about film, and entertainment in general, that spoils any conversation about the merits of Call Me by Your Name. No, this isn’t a masterpiece and no Timothee Chalamet isn’t a once in a generation talent, at least not yet.
In the social media landscape, there is no room to breathe and opinions belong to the singular statement. The ability to stimulate discourse has gone the way of U.S politics and content is either utterly amazing or “you simply don’t understand.” The flippant use of the word masterpiece, embodies this sentiment and is a direct result of a race to rattle off thoughts within the space Twitter allows.
Nuance still exists but it’s become the exception rather than the rule. Charts, numbers and established ecosystems of thought have become barometer de jour. Ironically, Call Me by Your Name is a perfect example of this: A beautiful film that will one day be lauded on top 100 lists, choking on our rush to articulate what makes it so good. It’s a film that’s become a victim of our inarticulate thought process.
Pushing past these grips, it is a film worthy of praise. Beautifully shot, with a colourful etherial atmosphere, cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom draws us into the sun kissed Italian countryside where the film takes place. Reportedly, Mukdeeprom only used one lens throughout the entire shoot, which if true, solidifies the sense of consistency his composition carries. The slow methodical approach is rendered with an eye for detail I found impressive.
Anchoring the beautiful shot composition are the performances from Chalamet and Armie Hammer. And while Chalamet brings an enormous amount of depth to the character of Elio I found myself more impressed with Hammer who historically hasn’t had the best outings. There’s a fluidity to Hammer’s movement that prove mesmerizing, and despite the self assured nature of first impressions, he plays Oliver with a subtle vulnerability I found touching. The relationship between the two begins innocently enough, a flirtatious endeavour that matures over time. Guadagnino gives the performances room to breathe and despite a sanitized feel, the relationship provides moments of authenticity allowing their various stages of love to look genuine.
Addressing the praise Chalamet is receiving: It’s not unwarranted, he legitimately could be one of the most accomplished actors ever if chooses the right projects. But it’s too easy to call him a once in a generation talent, because what does that actually mean? These phrases and descriptors intended to summarize a thought, only add more voices to the already cacophony of noise surrounding this movie. I’m not at all trying to take away from Chalamet’s performance because it is Oscar worthy. But what does that even mean? That he’s worthy of a golden statue presented by a bigoted organization out of touch with pretty much everything? Chalamet doesn’t need us to tell him how good he is, the performance speaks for itself and the rest is just figuring out different ways to say the same thing.
Our fascination with Chalamet extends beyond a love of celebrity culture, instead landing somewhere more primal, more innate. This current wave of attention harkens to our fascination with success and talent. We’re fascinated by successful people and what got them to here. In the entertainment world we poke, prod and designate a standout. We consistently state that specific actors are the next big thing and proceed to layer on our own expectations for their career. Instead of appreciating the performance in all it’s subtle beauty, we’ve molded Chalamet into a portrait of the next Hollywood star, thinking our nod of approval is important.
This sense of approval extends to the final shot of the film, which haunting and emotionally resonant. The camera slowly moves in on Elio’s face eventually holding on his eyes for an extended period of time. For such a simple shot It’s stayed with me in the weeks since, and being able to marinate on how I feel about Call Me by Your Name has been a positive experience. If I wrote this review immediately after seeing Guadagnino’s latest I would have written in platitudes, generalizations and singular statements.
Call Me by Your Name is combination of talent, passion and hard work that should been seen. Any designation that comes with these three things is superfluous and secondary to the movie itself. Go watch Call Me by Your Name and have the necessary conversation that comes with watching a fantastic film.