Call Me By Your Name is one of only a few love stories anywhere near the Oscar race this year. It is as much a coming-of-age story as it is a love story. It is about a young man who meets a slightly older man and falls madly in love for the first time. It’s that gnawing, painful kind of love you know will leave you forever changed. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience such a thing, you’ll recognize the authenticity director Luca Guadagnino and writer James Ivory bring to this story. Like all of his films, this one is experienced with all five senses. The director, who also made I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, has brought that same heightened level of intensity to this film, which is very different from both of this prior works in that the focus here is on male (rather than female) sexual pleasure.
What a thrilling film Call Me By Your Name is, not the least because it takes you places you don’t expect to go, except that you know since it’s a Guadagnino film there will be sweet and sticky lovemaking, delicious-looking food, gorgeous scenery, and music — great, great music. Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalomet are both electrifying in their roles as they take us back to a time and place before everything changed.
Call Me By Your Name took Sundance by storm several months ago and has been charging along strongly ever since, wowing audiences at Toronto and even earning top Gotham Award nominations. The film is that rare LGTBQ Oscar movie that doesn’t shy away from the sexual aspects of the story — rather, it celebrates them. But of course, like Battle of the Sexes, and to some extent The Shape of Water, past decades were not often supportive times, when anyone could be out and proud. Gay men were expected to tamp down their desires, marry women, and live their lives mostly closeted. Call Me By Your Name is a film about someone who learns from his father that love is love is love.
The film should do well with the Hollywood Foreign Press and with the Producers Guild. James Ivory seems on target to at least be nominated for adapting the novel, if not winning it. Expect attention from the USC Scripter awards as well. There is much love and enthusiasm for the movie, which means it has asserted itself with continuing, building momentum that should last through the next couple of months.
Why it Might Not
While a PGA nomination seems very likely and early critics awards will be showering it with awards and praise, the Directors Guild and SAG ensemble are still possible (maybe even probable) but not as easy calls as they would be for some other movies. The reason being that it’s really mostly the two leads and one pivotal scene with Michael Stuhlbarg. Call Me by Your Name obviously needs both of those guild nominations to win Best Picture. It needs both of those plus it needs a consensus to rally around it for it to beat some of the other films in the race.
The Academy did just go for a coming-of-age, coming out as gay love story last year, but some voters might be reluctant to go for it two years in a row, not to mention that they tend towards “important” films more than they do strictly pleasurable ones. Perhaps if this took place during World War II and there were Nazis bombing them, it might play better with the Academy.
However you slice it, though, Call Me By Your Name is one long swoon, a film that will make your heart ache for the sheer rapture of wanting. We know it will be in the race; it’s just not clear how prominently yet.