Of the movies nominated this year for Best Picture, Call Me By Your Name seemed to play the game of theatrical hide-and-seek. After its distributor — Sony Pictures Classics — mishandled its initial release, the film never got the chance to connect with audiences, entering Oscar night hampered by low box office returns. That it ultimately won the award for Best Screenplay at least means the movie won’t be completely forgotten.
This one deserves to be remembered. Savored. Appreciated for its fearless journey into the dimensions of young love. Not since, perhaps, Elia Kazan explored similar territory in the conventional Splendor in the Grass in 1961 — that also won an Oscar for its screenplay — has the discovery of romantic emotions between young people been so perfectly realized on screen. That was a traditional boy meets girl story; Call Me By Your Name dares to revisit the same landscape with two men who develop a bond that ultimately frames the myriad of emotions they discover.
Visually, the movie stuns, making anyone want to buy a ticket to Italy for the summer. A 17-year-old named Elio gets to spend his vacation from school savoring sunny, warm days amidst the beautiful scenery while his father, a professor, tends to studies and his mother reconnects with her home country. At first, everything looks routine. Father, mother and son enjoy time together, devour meals that look delicious, visit with friends and enjoy those intellectual discussions that define families brimming with curiosity. That eagerness to experience extends to the arrival of Oliver, a graduate student from the U.S., who arrives to work with the professor. Quickly we see sparks emerge between the two young men who surprise themselves with how naturally their feelings progress against, of course, the most romantic of backdrops. They embark on quite a summer romance.
That’s the story the movie tells, beautifully adapted by James Ivory from the book by Andre Aciman. Its letter-perfect adaptation comes as no surprise; Ivory is from the moviemaking team of Merchant Ivory, and the director of such classic literary adaptations as Howard’s End, A Room With a View and Remains of the Day. In his loving hands this story of emerging love is perfectly placed. Ivory tells it beautifully, with words that capture feelings, situations that develop feelings. But it’s what the movie doesn’t say that makes it unforgettable. Ivory resists revealing any sense of wonder when love develops between men to focus on the layers they feel no matter the conventions they may challenge. His script, carefully interpreted by director Luca Guadagnino, uses moments of silence, without words, to fully celebrate what people can feel when they stand in their truth.
With such perfection of moviemaking, Call Me By Your Name should have been a serious contender for major Oscars. Timothée Chalamet, as Elio, deserved to become the youngest winner of the Best Actor prize. But it wasn’t to be. And this movie is too good to overlook. Or watch on an airplane. Find it, savor it, and you will remember Call Me By Your Name. For a long time.
Film Nutritional Value: Call Me By Your Name
- Content: High. How two young men discover layers of love and truth about feelings becomes a beautiful journey for people searching for a soul mate.
- Entertainment: High. While the story may sound somber, it’s filled with marvelous humanity and humor as director Luca Guadagnino brings the characters to life.
- Message: High. No matter what a heart may feel, the film reminds us that, each day, we have the opportunity to live within the truth we live.
- Relevance: High. Any time older children can visit a time from the past rich with significance is an opportunity for everyone to learn something new.
- Opportunity for Dialogue: High. Use sharing this film with your older children as an opportunity to discuss how, each day, we can embrace who we are.
Call Me By Your Name is rated R for “sexual content, nudity and some language.” The film runs 2 hours, 12 minutes. 5 Popcorn Buckets.
Brooklyn: Beautiful visit to days long gone
If Call Me By Your Name, celebrates the discovery of love, Brooklyn pays tribute to the challenges that young people in love may have to endure.
Like a reunion with a close friend from years gone by, this beautiful film touches the heart with warmth, reaches the mind with humanity, and inspires us to revisit the meaning of home in our lives. With the delicacy of a watercolor landscape, director John Crowley beautifully translates the magical words of Colm Toibin’s novel into a movie of grace, wonder and depth.
In Brooklyn, the young woman Ellis brings a spirit to each day that her hometown in Ireland can no longer contain. So she sets off to the United States like many of her time, spending endless days on a ship across the Atlantic, arriving in Brooklyn in 1952 with little to define her dreams beyond the hope she packed in her suitcases. But she knows she can find a better life, she believes she can make America home. Slowly she finds work she enjoys, a school where she excels, a boarding house with people she tolerates and, surprisingly, a gentleman friend with a charm she can’t resist.
Such good fortune, in just a matter of time, would make her journey too brief and the movie too short. So Ellis must endure a few bumps in her road before she can choose where it will lead. When she is urgently called back to her hometown in Ireland, she is forced to confront who she was, who she has become, and what choices she has made along way. And she learns, as so many others in literature and movies, how difficult it can be to come home again.
There are no special effects in Brooklyn, no outrageous sounds, no bathroom humor, just the simplicity of a way life long gone by, when people listened to baseball games on the radio and met each other at public dances and made a visit to Coney Island a special event. As well, the filmmaking approach reaches to a calmer time when we could be trusted, as the audience, to absorb the material without a writer or director feeling compelled to over simplify, a time when the movies took the time to develop characters we care about.
For actress Saoirse Ronan, who won her first Oscar nomination at age 13 for Atonement, her second for this film, and her third this year for Lady Bird, the film offers a role to showcase her unique balance of charisma and sincerity. She beautifully portrays this young woman’s growth, how she emerges from shyness to stand up for herself, as well as her indecision when she becomes torn between a sense of obligation and a chance to be happy. But the film is not a star vehicle. Every role, from Julie Walters’ delightfully fussy boarding house owner to Emory Cohen’s charming suitor Tony feels perfectly cast with no exaggerated efforts to portray characters from another period. Like the film, they wear naturally, as if it all simply happens.
Perhaps the real story of Brooklyn is director Crowley. He could have been tempted to look at the time period through a contemporary lens, passing judgment from afar as he recreated the moment. His respect for the material – for every moment of indecision Ellis may face — clues us to respect the material. The director gives us the permission to fall in love with a movie that is so aware of what it is that it welcomes its audience with open arms, just like the America it recreates.
Brooklyn is rated PG-13 for “a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.” The film runs 111 minutes. It is available online and on demand.