After the truly dull experience I had with director Luca Guadagnino’s earlier project, A Bigger Splash, I believe I’ve come to the realisation that his work may just not be for me. What A Bigger Splash lacked in a strong ending or interesting writing, it made up for in enjoyable leading performances, some of which were cut short. It surprises me then that Call Me By Your Name has the reverse effects, where its strong ending is mismatched with a boring first hour and some bland performances that don’t really manage to do anything with a formidable script.
Starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer, the film follows the two as they spend their time together over a summer holiday in Italy. The lengthy relationship between the two takes a while to get itself going and then is over in a flash, and if this were intentional then it’d make for a rocky story. The build-up to the relationship is certainly more impressive than that of the fall out and relationship itself, but that’s because the latter aspects of the story are given no time to grow on their own. They rely solely on investment in the leading characters, which is great if it’s there, but for me I struggled to really care for the characters given that the performances were truly subpar.
Chalamet in particular manages to come across as a nobody, with a performance that fast fades away in comparison to the likes of Lady Bird and Beautiful Boy. He’s since become the A24 darling lead thanks to performances like this, it’s just a shame that this is his weakest outing so far. Armie Hammer too falls under the same pressure to perform to the best of his abilities, coming up short when compared to his other performances too. Nothing will quite beat his stellar role in Free Fire, and having a base for what these actors can do leaves a lot to be desired.
Guadagnino’s direction leads to nothing spectacular or special. He shows off the beauties of Italy rather well, but fails to provide any depth into his leading or supporting characters. Michael Stuhlbarg feels wasted in his supporting role as Samuel Perlman, but he’s been miscast in everything since his peak performance in A Serious Man. His role here is that of a literal father figure to Chalamet’s Elio. Stuhlbarg barges his way into a handful of scenes and then gets to give off a randomly emotive performance in the final ten minutes of a severely overlong movie.
A movie that, for better or worse, could’ve done with a lot less to it. Call Me By Your Name doesn’t know what it should be focusing on, and the result is a messy story that has some solid writing behind it but performances that fail to bring it to life. A lenghty and dull first hour brings a resulting bland tone to the rest of the film that it can’t quite escape, even when the last half hour begins to pick up the pieces.