Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Call Me By Your Name

Grade : B Year : 2017 Director : Luca Guadagnino Running Time : 2hr 12min Genre : ,
Movie review score

Let me be completely honest, here- I was quite bored with Luca Guadagnino’s Best Picture nominee for much of its 2 hour-plus running time, and for a coming-of-age love story, both my boredom (and that running time) are problematic. The screenplay by James Ivory is based on a novel by André Aciman, and I just couldn’t get into this story of Ellio, the 17-year-old son of a professor of Greco-Roman culture who is experience a summer of romantic feelings for the first time. Ellio (played by Best Actor nominee Timothee Chalamet) is an interesting enough teen, a classical musician who spends his days noodling around with Bach variations and classical guitar, and I really wanted to feel something as his lazy summer days are spent exploring sexual feelings towards Oliver, his father’s assistant (played by Armie Hammer), and Marzia (Esther Garrel), a friend of his. But the word I used to describe his summer days- lazy- seems to be Guadagnino’s pacing for most of the film, and while I’m fine with a slower pacing so long as the time is used to define characters and move the story along, there are too many pointless moments along the way that serve as placeholders until the real drama takes place. When I looked up and saw that Guadagnino has also directed “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash,” it makes sense that “Call Me By Your Name” didn’t really resonate with me, because I didn’t really become fully engaged by those films, either.

This is the kind of film that is frustrating to write about, because there are pieces in place I like. The sensuality of the love scenes Ellio engages in with either Oliver or Marzia capture that feeling of sexual exploration more honestly than most films even try for. The Italian landscape is beautifully captured by cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom- even if I was bored by much of what I was seeing, it was easy to at least get lost in the images I was shown, especially when the soundtrack kicked in. And the performances are all good, with Chalamet, Hammer and Garrel all showing us particular emotional arcs for their characters that can engage us when they need to, and with strong support by Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar and Ellio’s parents, who understand what their son is going through, and what he needs from them as he goes through it. When the film finds its focus in telling Ellio’s summer of discovery, it engages me fully, but, especially in the first half of the film, it largely fails to do so, and it’s pretty aggravating to sit through.

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