Call Me by Your Name
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Esther Garrel and Amira Casar
Run Time: 2h 12min
Genre: Drama, Romance
4 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
Based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman, ‘Call Me by Your Name‘ is an enchanting narrative with first-rate performances by Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. The story is about sexual awakening and the pure and true love between Oliver (Hammer) and Elio (Chalamet). The film is set in Northern Italy in the summer of 1983. Eighties attire, the fantastic song ‘Love My Way’ by the Psychedelic Furs, and a complete lack of youngsters with their noses pressed to a screen of some sort completes the interpretation of the decade.
Seventeen-year-old Elio meets the older Oliver, who was once an archeology student of his father’s, Mr. Perlman (Stuhlbarg). Oliver has come to stay and work as Mr. Perlman’s research assistant for the summer, something a chosen student does often.
Elio, who is still a virgin, has a young woman, who’s very attracted to him. She chases him around for his attention. When Oliver enters the picture, it’s hard for her to get any notice except for a few times when Elio is jealous that Oliver is out with a female.
Guadagnino toys with our emotions, making us question what we see as the growing infatuation in Elio, but his feelings soon become obvious. Elio is a pianist and is deeply passionate. His affections for Oliver seems to confuse him but that doesn’t stop him. He’s becoming a man who, for the first time, yearns and lusts after someone. As his frustration grows, his desire grows. What he’s going through is masterfully examined for the audience. He must somehow test Oliver to see if his affections are returned. I can’t say enough how incredibly well written and directed these scenes are. Watching the friends, in the time of Aids and people largely staying in the closet, find a way to break the ice and be with one another, was fascinating, to say the least.
It is somewhat slow as summer vacation can be and it comes across as a bit lazy but when Elio’s intentions are finally made clear, by the young man breathing in Oliver’s essence through a pair of dirty shorts he holds and caresses, the story finds it’s voice.
Elio hides his sexuality from his parents and acts as if he has an interest in girls. What’s so wonderful about the movie is that he has a fear of them knowing the truth but they open up to him first and let him know that they understand. Stuhlbarg has a beautiful monologue ensuring Elio that his mother and father have not only suspected he was interested in Oliver but are completely supportive of the relationship. Mr. Perlman, being a protective father, tells him and therefore reassures his son, that it was good he and Oliver were together, and that Elio can come talk to him whenever he needs to. With a faraway look in his eyes, he explains that the typical parent would want their child to grow out of being gay but he is not that kind of parent, even suggesting he had questions of his own sexuality at some point in his life when he tells the boy, ‘I may have come close but I never had what you two had.’
As far as the acting goes, with Hammer, you usually expect to see him star in a comedic action movie, but he strips away all preconceived notions of who he is as an actor and presents the portrayal of love interest and lover, to a young man, with ease. They have playful, tender and loving scenes before Oliver goes back to America and you never once questions how they feel about one another. They’re both nervous and unsure of themselves but finally become confident in their love which carries them through a special summer of kissing, touching, learning from each other and lovemaking.
At the end of the film, there’s a phone call from Oliver to Elio. The emotions he goes through from the beginning of the call to the end of the call exhibits why there’s a lot of praise for Chalamet’s performance. During the call, he realizes he has lost the love of his life. Elio’s message from his father is to feel the sorrow and the pain, never bury it. You may lose your love but at least you had someone love you that powerfully once.
Throughout the film, the scenery is gorgeous, the acting is by far some of the best of the year, there are some odd cinematic choices but the story is utterly beautiful. It’s very sensual and excessively sexual but don’t let that prevent you from seeing such a delightful, albeit, crushing tale of passion.