The Guardian's Reasons Why "Call Me By Your Name" Should Win Best Picture At The Oscars!
Is Hollywood really changing? Or is just going through poses, like a self-conscious teenager at an outdoor disco in 1980s Italy? If Call Me By Your Name wins best picture at this year’s Academy Awards, we’ll have our answer.
Luca Guadagnino’s film tells the story of two young men falling in love, but it’s also an irresistible seduction in itself. One which began before the film’s official release, with a flirtatious clip of Armie Hammer dancing, and continues over the course of a long Italian summer. Like young grad student Oliver (Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the 17-year-old son of his professor-host, we contentedly while away the film’s running time, discussing art and politics in whichever European language feels right, going for long bike rides, taking dips in the nearby lake, and dining outdoors under the peach trees; all of it depicted with languid sensuality by Guadagnino’s lens.
This is a coming-of-age film, but one that achieves an unusual emotional immediacy. It does so partly by omitting the retrospective narration of an older Elio (present in both André Aciman’s original novel and earlier drafts of James Ivory’s screenplay) and also by wearing its period setting lightly. Elio’s full New Romantic get-up only makes an appearance in the final scene, and the Psychedelic Furs’ 1982 hit Love My Way shares top soundtrack billing with a trio of specially composed contemporary songs by Sufjan Stevens. This invitation to indulge in what Guadagnino has called “the melancholy of lost things” extends not only to nostalgic fiftysomething gay men, but to anyone with a love affair in their past worth remembering.
Depictions of same-sex relationships have been deemed Oscar-worthy before (Philadelphia in 1993; Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and, of course, last year’s Moonlight), but this film goes further by allowing Elio and Oliver to escape the usually devastating consequences that cinema dishes out to its gay protagonists. Not only is Elio not struck down by a life-limiting illness, persecuted by unjust laws or turned out on the streets, he enjoys the support of a loving, emotionally intuitive family. Michael Stuhlbarg may have missed out on an Oscar nomination for the role of Elio’s father, but the speech he gives on heartbreak will surely save audiences years of therapy by enacting the ideal parent figure we all wish we’d had.
The 22-year-old Chalamet was nominated in the best actor category, and that final close-up of his face as the credits roll should be enough on its own to justify his inclusion alongside the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Gary Oldman. If factors besides the nominated performance are allowed to weigh in, then he’s more deserving still. Not only does Chalamet also appear in Lady Bird, another of this year’s most exciting best picture nominees, but this very model of a post-Weinstein star has shown more courage off-screen that most actors twice his age. Last month he announced he would be donating the entire fee he earned from Woody Allen’s upcoming film A Rainy Day in New York to charities Time’s Up, the LGBT Community Center in New York, and Rainn [the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network].
It isn’t taboo-busting which makes Call Me By Your Name a deserving winner; past LGBT films have done the hard work here, and some future, more courageously raunchy film, will have to do more yet. Call Me By Your Namedeserves to win because, as great cinema should, it beautifully conveys the universality of a specific human story.
Moonlight’s triumph at last year’s Academy Awards proved that excellent cinema can, on occasion, get noticed amid the film industry’s white, straight, male hegemony, but so what? Only when Hollywood consistently recognises that supposedly “niche” subject matter is no barrier to a film’s ability to connect can it truly claim to reflect our changing world. Maybe 2018 will be that year.