Movie Review - Call Me By Your Name

August 10, 2018

Call Me By Your Name - 2017 dir: Luca Guadagnino

by Darren…Bond Library’s film reviewer

It is summertime 1983, somewhere in picturesque Northern Italy, 17yr old Elio, a cultured, precocious, flirtatious and even pretentious teenager who is on the verge of becoming a man, will learn one of the most important lessons of his young life, that as expressed by Elio himself …"what matters most"... wasn’t exactly prepared for where love is concerned. His father, an art history professor who specialises in Greco-Roman culture and his mother who is a translator, live in an idyllic villa in an orchard grove that is replete with peaches and apricots. Elio also speaks several languages and transcribes musical compositions. Into his world comes another exceptional being, 24yr old Oliver, an American college graduate who is working with the professor for the summer. Elio becomes smitten with Oliver and his longing and yearning for this older man becomes the focus of his summer and sexual awakening.                                                                             

Timothée Chalamet—in a deserved Oscar® nominated performance—portrays Elio and brings just the right touch of older teen arrogance and awkwardness to his performance. On the surface, he can appear beyond his years, yet he also belies himself with his own immaturity and he isn’t even that likeable. As the film progresses and Elio unravels, we begin to see more layers and depth to his character. Oliver—portrayed admirably by Armie Hammer—undergoes his own transformation. Elio, who is ambivalent with his feelings about Oliver at first, taunts and ridicules him at any chance he can get, starts to lighten up as his relationship with Elio emboldens.

James Ivory, who is renowned for his wonderful period films, especially those of E.M. Forster—A Room With A View, Howards End—has written a leisured script from a novel by Andre Aciman. It is a slow-paced and even languished film, never gets boring and beautifully photographed. There are times where the visuals just represent themselves, rather than didactically patronise the viewer with narrative exposition. No judgement is placed on the characters or the film’s theme. Bigotry and prejudice don’t rear its head. The scenario is taken as is and in the context of the complete story and setting.

Within the sexual content of the film, it portrays the intimacy sensually rather than explicitly and nature itself can also play an important part in juxtaposition with the characters and surroundings. You may never look at a peach the same way again. 

Call Me By Your Name, is an intelligent, superlative and thought-provoking film that evokes its sense of time and place wonderfully. What is at the core of the film, is the nature of humanity and how choices we make can be dictated by what others may expect of us. Elio has comfort, love and support in his life and his father—beautifully played by Michael Stuhlbarg who expresses this theme in a subtle yet also shattering and profound monologue. Oliver may not as fortunate.