Call Me by Your Name (2017)

  • Time: 130 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: Luca Guadagnino
  • Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg

Storyline:

Call Me by Your Name, the new film by Luca Guadagnino, is a sensual and transcendent tale of first love, based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman. It’s the summer of 1983 in the north of Italy, and Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a precocious 17-year-old young man, spends his days in his family’s 17th century villa transcribing and playing classical music, reading, and flirting with his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). Elio enjoys a close relationship with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture, and his mother Annella (Amira Casar), a translator, who favor him with the fruits of high culture in a setting that overflows with natural delights. While Elio’s sophistication and intellectual gifts suggest he is already a fully-fledged adult, there is much that yet remains innocent and unformed about him, particularly about matters of the heart. One day, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old American college graduate student working on his doctorate, arrives as the annual summer intern tasked with helping Elio’s father. Amid the sun-drenched splendor of the setting, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.

2 reviews

  • Summer 1983, somewhere in Northern Italy. There is a boy, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), 17 years old, deriding the arrival of the latest interloper to his family’s villa. The usurper in question is Oliver (Armie Hammer), seven years older, American, prone to punctuating his sentences with an offhand “Later!” Oliver has come to stay for six weeks to serve as a research assistant to Elio’s father, Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), an expert in classical archaeology. To say that Oliver disturbs the paradisiacal peace is an understatement.

    His presence seems innocuous enough at first, though there are minor chords of suspense in the way Elio regards Oliver with a mixture of curiosity, suspicion, superiority, resentment, and a somewhat reluctant admiration. Indeed, Oliver is designed to be admired – intelligent enough to debate the etymology of the word “apricot” with the Professor as well as being so remarkable a physical specimen that he resembles a Roman statue come to life. Where Elio is bookish and introspective – he spends his days reading, transcribing music, swimming, and lazing about with his sort-of girlfriend Marzia (Esther Garrel) – Oliver is swaggering and carefree, as comfortable playing cards with the old locals as he is dancing without inhibition with Elio’s set of friends. An unshakeable frisson begins to stir within Elio, who is soon submerged in desire and longing for Oliver.

    Call Me By Your Name is adapted from the 2007 novel by André Aciman by James Ivory, the American director best known for A Room with a View, Howards End, and The Remains of the Day, films in which the sensual simmered beneath the facade of societal propriety. Yet this film is directed by Luca Guadagnino who, with his previous works I am Love and A Bigger Splash, has proven that he has no time for such percolations. Guadagnino revels in the sensuous and erotic – carnality fills every frame of his films – and Call Me By Your Name is a feast for the senses. There is a purpose in the way Guadagnino lavishes so much attention on the way the sunlight sheens on Elio and Oliver’s skin, the startlingly precise images, and the Proustian obsessiveness to detail – when in the rapture of love, but particularly first and also forbidden love, everything is ripe for the remembering.

    Chalamet and Hammer perform an exquisite pas de deux of hesitancy and submission as the characters navigate through the thorny thicket of love. They approach and avoid – a touch on the shoulder here, the joy of a first kiss, the closing of a door to signal refusal or separation, a hand firmly between the legs, “Just don’t” as a gentle reproach, then the stirring declaration: “Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.” Their inevitable parting is perfectly rendered: devoid of dialogue but with a sense that this is how it was meant to be.

    Though Elio and Oliver rightly take centre stage for the majority of the film, it is Professor Perlman who unexpectedly delivers the film’s most poignant charge in its waning moments. “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster that we go bankrupt by the age of 20 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything…what a waste.” Stuhlbarg should be wreathed in laurels for that scene alone for so movingly conveying the Professor’s personal understanding, tacit approval, and fatherly consolation. Be yourself and don’t settle for less – words to share and words to live by.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆½ out of 5 stars)  
          
    GRADE: B+    

    THIS FILM IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: Lyrical, sensual, and moving, the film is pure gay fantasy and it’s beautifully acted and directed too.

    SYNOPSIS:  In northern Italy, a teenage boy falls in love with an older man.

    RUNNING TIME: 2 hrs, 12 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW: Oh, the fervor of first love. That unmistakable sexual need to be wanted by another person, to be caressed and kissed. The risk we take to be viewed as an object of desire, yearning for those glorious highs and that joyous awakening which begins our rite of passage, from innocent adolescent into the harsh realistic adult world. The journey is filled with unexpected pleasures, detours that can take one to the pinnacle of satisfaction and, in minutes, when false words are spoken or unexplained actions complicate the relationship, send us spiraling downward to the eventual low. We become the foolish spurned lover, shamed and laid barren, wondering if the mating dance was worth the whole experience. The answer is yes…better to have loved, as the saying goes…and in Luca Guadagnino‘s glorious ode to romance, Call Me by Your Name, we can observe those forgotten moments of ecstasy and anger with wistful thoughts and wry observation.

    The film chronicles the love affair between Elio, a gawky seventeen year old and his infatuation with an older man named Oliver, who is visiting Italy as a graduate student working with his father at their country villa. Set in 1980’s Italy, we watch the tender give-and-take between the two and follow the seduction as it slowly unfolds. Neither can truly acknowledge their inner emotions, nor explain the palpable attraction in their hearts and minds. But their feelings are quite tangible and the director captures that sense of awe and wonder. Mr. Guadagnino’s vision is pure romance and he uses his lyrical imagery to build the tension between the two lovers.

    Call Me by Your Name is not remotely real. The film is strictly a gay fantasy, which takes place in a utopia free of homophobia. In reality, this public attitude rarely existed in the eighties, nor does it exist today. In fact, James Ivory’s screenplay, while articulate and persuasive, avoids any semblance of the mere notion of sexual prejudice and intolerance. Any moviegoer has to disregard that lack-of-realism factor if they are to truly appreciate this lovely coming-of-age drama. The director’s decision to play up the romantic intimacy and downplay the nudity and sex scenes allows the moviegoer to view this courtship in unrealistic terms while avoiding of the underlying corruption of a minor issue (at least, as viewed in American terms)…But can one justify this prevalent attitude as more free-thinking Europe in the 80’s? (The AIDS epidemic was a real influence and is never mentioned in the scenario and Elio’s parents seem hellbent on their liberal-mindedness in terms of their son’s adolescent freedom and happiness, a stance that seemed odd to this reviewer.)

    The homoerotic moments are sensually charged and filmed on a grand scale by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom with his gorgeous lush panoramas and beautiful period details by Samuel Deshors reinforce the romantic tale. We are swept away and taken along, rarely questioning the sexual predator role or the corruption of a minor angle. It never enters our mind. It’s pure impure romance. We somehow justify the indecency of the boy-man relationship and ignore our Puritan judgment. After all, love is love is love.

    Director Luca Guadagnino certainly cast his film perfectly, creating the most swoon-worthy pairing with his two lead actors, Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Their chemistry together delivers the tension and pathos of first love. (Surprisingly, with all the sexual accusations and #MeToo Movement afoot, there has not been any backlash against the man / boy theme of this film. There is some questionable intent and power games on display. Granted, the casting of Mr. Hammer as the predator seems to make the seduction and conquest more credible, but imagine another less attractive actor in this pivotal role and the subject matter would have been less accepting and reaction more judgmental.) Of course, it also helps that the two actors project that necessary allure to make the whole love story believable. And they are sensational in their roles.

    Mr. Chalamet plays the intense young Elio and it is an astonishing performance. The young actor displays the gamut of emotions and shows the vulnerability and confusion of a young boy trying to come to terms with his own sexual identity during homophobic times. As Oliver, portrayed by Mr. Hammer, the actor uses his masculinity as a potent fixture. He allows his character to be enigmatic in his words and deliberate in his actions. Wearing his tight-fitting pastel outfits and the shortest of shorts make a strong case for the attraction and the actor takes the risk in a difficult role and makes the character kind and, at times, slightly cruel.

    There are also two classic moments in this film that will be long remembered. One involves a masturbation scene that is quite sensual and handled with the utmost “taste”. The other is given to Michael Stuhlbarg as Elio’s father, Mr. Perlman. He delivers a beautifully-written monologue by Mr. Ivory that sums up the film’s theme. This talented actor almost steals the entire film with his emotionally-shaded soliloquy of the road not taken. He deserves award recognition for his fine interpretation of those finely-honed words. (Special mention also to Amira Casar as Annella Perlman, whose wry performance as Elio’s mother says more in her subtle glances than in mere words. Esther Garrel adds fine support as Elio’s girlfriend too.)

    Call Me By Your Name speaks so eloquently of the love that dare not speak its name. Mr. Guadagnino has crafted a lovely romanticized view of the thrill of love and has created a classic bit of gay cinema that will be embraced for decades to come.

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    ANY COMMENTS: Please contact me at: jadepietro@rcn.com

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