Tag Archives: gay cinema

Sowing the Seeds of Love

Call Me by Your Name

by Hope Madden

It’s a languid Italian summer circa 1983 and everything is just so ripe.

Call Me by Your Name, the coming-of-age drama from Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash), swoons. Precocious seventeen-year-old Elio (an utterly astonishing Timothée Chalamet) is surrounded with luscious fruit from the trees, lovely girls from the village, books and music to fill the hours spent with his parents (Amira Casar, Michael Stuhlbarg) in the rural villa where they research Greco-Roman culture.

Then their seasonal research assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives.

Awash in sensuality, Guadagnino’s love story is unafraid to explore, circling Oliver and Elio as they irritate each other, then test each other, and finally submit to and fully embrace their feelings for one another. Theirs is a remarkable dance, intimately told and flawlessly performed.

Enough cannot be said for Chalamet’s work. He is astonishingly in control of this character, and were that not the case, the age difference between the two characters (Oliver is meant to be 24, though Hammer is 31 which makes the gap seem more disturbing) would have left things feeling too predatory.

Hammer has never been better. Though the young Chalamet’s performance is Oscar-caliber, Hammer matches him step for step, creating a character both vulnerable and authoritative.

A standout in a solid ensemble, Stuhlbarg, looking almost alarmingly like Robin Williams, brings a quiet tenderness to the proceedings, a tone he elevates in a late-film monologue that could not have been delivered with more compassion or love. It’s breathtaking, perfectly punctuating the themes of acceptance and self-acceptance that permeate the film.

But even before Hammer or Chalamet can seduce you, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom does, lensing a feast for the senses. Together he and Guadagnino immerse you in this heady love story, developing a dreamy cadence and alluring palette that invites you to taste.


Collision Course

From Afar

by Hope Madden

Welcome to the fringes of Caracas, where a life barely lived collides with vibrant and violent passions in From Afar, the confident feature debut from director Lorenzo Vigas.

Veteran Chilean actor Alfredo Castro plays Armando, a solitary figure who stokes what little longing he still has by paying street kids for company.

Castro’s masterful performance mirrors Vigas’s detached style, but there’s more to this character than meets the eye. Vigas, who also wrote, shares only as many details as needed, encouraging the viewer to fill in the missing pieces. Meanwhile, Castro’s resigned, closed-off performance still roils at times with passion that threatens to break through his carefully protected surface.

Vigas’s deliberate use of focus and carefully observational approach keeps the audience at arm’s length, but this remote tone is frequently punctuated by the brute ferocity of young Luis Silva’s performance.

In a blistering screen debut as Elder, the 17-year-old punk who captures Armando’s interest, Silva is a shock to the system. Primal, urgent and impulsive, he bursts through the screen as well as Armando’s emotional walls.

The tension between Armando and Elder and the damage each may be doing to his own life and the other’s cause nerve-wracking tension as the relationship blooms, and yet Silva takes the narrative in directions that are simultaneously inevitable and heartbreakingly surprising.

Though the film sometimes feels overly crafted, and perhaps Vigas allows style to dictate more than it should, there is no denying the lead performances. Committed and natural, sympathetic yet repellant, the two actors unveil characters that are as similar and as dissimilar as people can be.

Vigas understands the power in silence. His film explains very little and yet exposes much – about yearning, class divides, human nature, and survival. He and his remarkable cast invite you into lives you couldn’t possibly know to tell a story with no judgment, and the truth in it is devastating.