Heading into Call Me By Your Name with high expectations after hearing so many great things about it, I have to admit that I’m quite baffled by the near-unanimous praise it has received since its premiere. Tedious, overlong & painfully boring, this coming-of-age romance is one hell of a disappointment.
Set in 1980s Italy, the story of Call Me By Your Name follows Elio, a young kid on the cusp of adulthood who’s instantly smitten by Oliver, his father’s new assistant who will be spending the summer with them. As the two begin spending more time with each other, a beautiful bond blossoms between them.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino, this is my first stint with his works and while I do find the simplicity & purity of its tender romance a plus, the lethargic pace at which it all unfolds makes the entire experience a very frustrating sit. Sure it allows more space for the characters to breathe but there’s nothing about them that’s compelling.
Wandering aimlessly for the most part with no sense of direction, it already had me wishing for the end around the halfway mark. The film does find its sure footing during the final act but it takes too long to get there and the interest is already lost by that time. Its soothing camerawork & serene setting do help but even they can’t fill the emptiness that lies in between.
Performances on the other hand are commendable. The film packs a reliable cast in Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg & others, with Chalamet impressing the most with an emotionally complex input and he is at his best during the final frames. Hammer leaves a mark of his own as Oliver while Stuhlbarg chips in with good support and his final monologue is the only moment that resonated with me.
On an overall scale, Call Me By Your Name is a deceptively simple, melancholic & uncontaminated portrait of first love that seems to have won over everyone but left me indifferent for the most part. At least those couple songs by Sufjan Stevens are mesmerising. There’s no denying that Timothée Chalamet is a revelation here but if you’re not already invested in his character’s journey, then Call Me by Your Name is going to be one excruciating cinematic experience.