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Call Me By Your Name - Film Review

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by Nicholas Gordon (subscribe)
Freelance writer based in Sydney.
Published December 14th 2017
First love in Italy
Northern Italy in the summer of 1983. 17-year-old Italian-American, Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is on holidays at his parents' villa. Elio's father (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor and every summer he invites a fellow academic to the villa for six weeks to assist him with his research. This year's guest is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a swaggering, handsome American. Oliver catapults himself into the sleepy lifestyle of Elio and his parents, even commandeering Elio's room in the villa.

Elio is unbothered. It's warm and the days are languid, punctuated only by meals, swimming in the pool and excursions into town. The days pile up, fading into each other. Elio and Oliver interact, but there doesn't seem to be much to it. Elio is bookish and a talented musician and his days are spent reading, transcribing music and sometimes hanging around with his peers. Oliver exists in a whirlwind, assisting Elio's father and charming everyone else, including Elio's mother (Amira Casar).

As time passes, Elio becomes more and more interested in Oliver and despairs when he believes his feelings are not going to be reciprocated. As summer deepens, Elio and Oliver spend more time together and learn more about each other, and a lasting bond is formed.

Based on André Aciman's novel and directed by Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash), Call Me By Your Name is a dazzlingly beautiful film. The northern Italian backdrop is splashed constantly and vibrantly across the big screen. The family villa, stately and at times somewhat foreboding, features prominently, its gardens and grounds tense and alive in the summer heat. Journeys away from the villa - to the nearby village or the tranquil surrounding countryside - are rendered similarly gorgeously.

Like Luca Guadagnino's previous films, the stunning setting is accompanied by a hypnotic score, adding to the moodiness and tension. The cinematography and editing are equally evocative, not so much showing us places, as fully immersing us in them.

The film features some wonderful performances. Timothee Chalamet's Elio is earnest and sincere, capturing the confusion of his age and predicament. Armie Hammer's Oliver starts out as brash and even unlikable but grows until you can't help but be won over. Elio's parents, most notably his father, also shine in roles that could have easily been mere bookends.

Call Me By Your Name is one of the best films of the year. Its complex and richly drawn storyline is engrossing and ultimately very touching. The film's magnificent locations and lush visual composition are equally captivating. A must-see.

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*Nicholas Gordon was invited as a guest
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Why? For one of the best films of the year
When: In cinemas Boxing Day
Where: Cinemas nationally
Cost: Check with cinema
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