Based on the widely-heralded first novel by André Aciman (2007), "Call Me By Your Name" is as visually pleasing as any film in recent memory. It evokes those sun-drenched, idyllic days of childhood when anything and everything seemed possible.
Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is a privileged 17-year-old who spends his summers in his family's 17th century villa in the north of Italy. Every summer, his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor who specializes in Greco-Roman culture, takes on a summer intern to aid in his cataloguing.
This particular summer, the summer of 1983, that intern is Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American graduate student working on his doctorate. The villa and its inhabitants are immediately transformed upon his arrival, especially Elio. With his spectacular good looks and easy-going manner, Oliver adds new life to the lazy Italian summer days.
"Call Me By Your Name" is awash in the magical splendor of beautiful sunshine, luscious foods and first love. Director Luca Guadagnino, whose other movie "I Am Love" is another Italian stunner starring his frequent collaborator Tilda Swinton --- and a favorite of mine, wanted "Call Me By Your Name" to be "like a box of chocolates".
He sees it as "a tender story that affects an audience in an uplifting way". Some moviegoers may be uncomfortable with the sex scenes, but others will identify with the beauty of this story, regardless of their sexual preferences.
But no matter how gorgeous the cinematography, the writing must match and James Ivory has penned an incredibly moving screenplay.
The initial banter between Elio and Oliver is completely innocent and believable. And as their friendship deepens, Ivory's dialogue never falters, or turns banal.
There are so very many memorable scenes in "Call Me By Your Name". It's like a mini vacation watching Elio and Oliver bike through the lush Italian countryside and swim in the divine lakes and pools. But, the most heartbreaking scene is between Elio and his adoring father when they are discussing the power of a heady first
romance --- and not to dismiss its importance.
The performances in "Call Me By Your Name" are all first rate. The casting of Chalamet and Hammer is completely brilliant --- they are marvelous together. Not only are they both utterly handsome, they also play off one another perfectly. They are sensual --- mesmerizing, actually. And Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar, who plays Elio's mother, Annella, are wonderful. If only all young men had parents who were so open and understanding this world would be a much better place.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!
A coming-of-age/love story combined --- sounds like "Summer of '42" (1971), that classic homage to a young man's fanciful romance with an older woman. Set in a small town in northern Italy, "Call Me By Your Name" actually takes place in the summer of 1983. By comparison, it is an homage to a young man's very real romance with an older man.
"Call Me By Your Name" is a beautifully done film that treats a sensitive subject with grace, dignity and maturity. Seventeen-year-old American-Italian Elio (Timothée Chalamet) lives with his parents (played by Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) in an idyllic setting. He transcribes piano music, speaks fluent Italian, has a girlfriend, Marzia (Esther Garrel), and is generally happy with his life.
One day a 24-year-old American doctoral candidate named Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives to work and consult with Elio's father, a professor of Greco-Roman culture. From the moment the tall, handsome Oliver is espied by Elio from an upstairs window, we sense a spark of interest by the teenaged boy.
In the hands of director Luca Guadagnino and legendary screenwriter/director James Ivory (former partner of the late Ismail Merchant --- the two made dozens of indie films under the name of Merchant Ivory Productions), the relationship between Elio and Oliver builds at a snail's pace. But both characters are imminently likeable, so we are totally engrossed in the progression of their growing affection for each other.
In one early scene --- solely with the intent on testing his reaction --- Oliver rubs Elio's shoulder, but is rebuffed by the boy. Okay, thinks Oliver, he's not interested. The pair eventually spend more time together --- bike rides into the town, stops for drinks, resting by a lake. A comment by Elio as the twosome lay in the grass leads to a subsequent move by OIiver. Thus, their forbidden physical affair begins, although Oliver abruptly stops, saying they haven't done anything wrong yet --- more deliberate plot development by the filmmakers. The movie is based on first-time author André Aciman's 2007 novel, which he wrote in only three months.
Adding to the drama is the fact that 1983 wasn't exactly a time when homosexual relationships were embraced as something normal. Do Elio's parents know what's going on? Does Marzia know why Elio hasn't talked to her for days after their recent lovemaking?
As "Call Me By Your Name" becomes almost exclusively focused on the physical and romantic attraction between Elio and Oliver, we wonder what will happen when Oliver's short stint in Italy is over, and he must return to America. Soon Oliver is thousands of miles away, but this leads to a father-son conversation between Elio and his dad about the summer's activities. It is one of Stuhlbarg's finest moments on film, a truly memorable and moving scene.
"Call Me By Your Name" is not simply a movie that will be embraced by the LGBT community. It is a story about love and friendship that should be appreciated by everybody. The sheer joy that Oliver and Elio feel just being together is really special to behold, a tribute to the actors.
Hammer and Chalamet (Armie was 29 and Timothée was 20 at filming) seem perfectly natural together. "Call Me By Your Name" is not a film you will easily forget.
Opinion: Strong See It Now!