Published Dec 21, 2017With Moonlight's historic Best Picture win at the Academy Awards earlier this year, the floodgates of queer cinema have hopefully been opened to make more room for films like Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, a love story both universally relatable and distinctly, undeniably queer. Starring Armie Hammer as Oliver, a charming grad student spending his summer in Northern Italy as a research assistant to a professor, and Timothée Chalamet as the professor's precocious teenage son Elio, the film depicts their whirlwind relationship with heartfelt, poetic tenderness.
The onscreen playfulness between Hammer and Chalamet drives the film as their relationship slowly evolves from childish resentment to friendship to their eventual romance, and both actors imbue their characters with plenty of nuance. Thanks to their skilful acting, the relationship is devoid of any reductive power dynamics, instead displaying a realistic relationship that's displayed with grace and realism, nimbly avoiding any Hollywood tropes or pitfalls. By highlighting the emotional aspects of the relationship, even the scenes of physical intimacy contribute to the film's emotive strength, instead of letting them stand out for their carnal pleasure alone.
In contrast to Guadagnino's quick-cut style on 2015's A Bigger Splash, here he chooses to let things linger, with plenty of lengthy tracking shots drawing out the action to accentuate the emotion. With plenty of iconic, striking moments, it's worthy of immediate entry into the canon of queer cinema — by the year's end, one need only say "peach scene" to evoke the film's sensual, engrossing heart.
Rounded out by soundtrack contributions from Sufjan Stevens and a series of strong, supporting performances (including Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio's father), Guadagnino's masterwork tells a gripping, vital story that succeeds on all levels. Call Me By Your Name seems poised to do well during the incoming award season, but its legacy is sure to last long beyond the festivities. (Mongrel Media)