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Sony Pictures Classics

Film review: ‘Call Me by Your Name’ a sensual love story for the ages

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Preston Barta

Call Me by Your Name 

Rated R, 131 minutes.

Opens Friday at Angelika Film Center in Dallas and Plano.

5 of 5 stars

When you’re happy, you want every moment to last forever. You want things to stay the way they are and exist in that space like there’s no tomorrow. But alas, there’s time. Time can be your best friend or your worst enemy. 

For the central lovers in Luca Guadagnino’s latest venture, time is clearly the latter.

Call Me by Your Name is like waking up from a dream you don’t want to end. There’s something so familiar and relatable in the way it delves into the concepts of first love and how our surroundings and those we choose to populate our lives shape who we ultimately become. Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash, I Am Love) fashions a tender portrait of youth and letting go.

Based on André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, we begin in the summer of 1983 in a villa in northern Italy. Seventeen-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) — a bright but brooding teen — and his family (a terrific Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) take in a 24-year-old student by the name of Oliver (Armie Hammer). Each summer Elio’s father, an expat professor, invites a student to assist him in his research on Greco-Roman culture. It just so happens that this year’s intern forms a love affair with his son.

Very few filmmakers understand how time can be used as a tool as much as it can be used as a theme. Call Me by Your Name is all about time and how it can slip from our fingers when all seems right in the world. Like Richard Linklater ( director of Boyhood and Last Flag Flying), Guadagnino fills his film with many long takes to capture all life’s delicacies with an incredible amount of credibility. The camera will often stay fixed on a character and their observations to illustrate their desires. It’s an effective approach that never wears out its welcome or leaves you bored.

Along with its patient storyline, what elevates the film above most 2017 titles are the performances, most notably Chalamet (Lady Bird) and Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water). As father and son, they share a powerful sequence toward the film’s finale. In the scene, Stuhlbarg delivers a heartbreaking monologue as he provides his son with comfort, but most importantly, acceptance.

Call Me by Your Name is a profound piece of filmmaking. It lifts your spirits as much as it sends them down. Above all, it causes the viewer to realize how wonderful life can be, even if our aspirations are left unfulfilled. There’s a beauty in both happiness and sadness, and this classic-in-the-making opens our hearts to that truth.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.