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Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name (2017) movie poster Call Me by Your Name

Theatrical Release: November 24, 2017 / Running Time: 132 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Luca Guadagnino / Writers: James Ivory (screenplay); André Aciman (novel)

Cast: Armie Hammer (Oliver), Timothée Chalamet (Elio Perlman), Michael Stuhlbarg (Mr. Lyle Perlman), Amira Casar (Annella), Esther Garrel (Marzia), Victoire Du Bois (Chiara), Vanda Capriolo (Mafalda), Antonio Rimoldi (Anchiese)


While I'm not always prepared with a pithy comment for those collecting them outside of my screenings, I usually do not need a lot of time to digest a movie. About an hour or two after the credits began rolling, I'm typically at my computer, composing my thoughts into a multi-paragraph review.
But I'm writing this over a week after seeing Call Me by Your Name and I'm still trying to figure out what I thought of it. It's not that I completely loved it or completely hated it. I was able to assign it 25th place on my ranked 2017 movie list, which means I consider it better than 75% of the new movies I've seen this year (when writing this, I just passed the 100 movie mark). But I'm at a loss to describe the movie and what I liked about it.

Adapting André Aciman's 2007 novel of the same name, Call Me is set "somewhere in northern Italy" in the summer of 1983. Seventeen-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) surrenders his room in his American-Italian family's Mediterranean home to Oliver (Armie Hammer), the doctoral student selected to aid Elio's scholar father Lyle (Michael Stuhlbarg) on an assortment of projects. The film is not so interested in Dad and Oliver's work, though it does tag along on a beach expedition and makes mention of other tasks. The bigger focus is on Elio developing feelings for the older Oliver.

The two are strikingly different from a physical point of view. Oliver is tall and strapping. Elio is rail thin and not fully developed. Neither seems close to a homosexual stereotype and this being 1983, neither is open about their attraction, which complements more traditional summer flings with local girls there.

Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) share a moment as they both hold the arm of an old sculpture washed up and discovered.

Eventually, the quiet Elio does confess his feelings to Oliver and acts upon them. Oliver confirms the feelings are mutual but does not believe the two can act upon them. Is it because homosexuality is widely ridiculed and misunderstood then? Is it because Oliver is a man and Elio seems to be still winding down his boy phase? Is it because in a few weeks Oliver will return to the States and Elio will stay with his expatriate family? Perhaps a little of all three.

Call Me is not terribly interested in spelling out its narrative or defining conflict. It is much more interested in creating and sustaining an atmosphere, one of sunny Italy in the summer of 1983. The fashions (short shorts), the music (from New Wave to period-sounding original songs by Sufjan Stevens), and the scenery (beautiful Italy) are on display and stir feelings even if you can't relate at all to developing vaguely forbidden feelings for an older person of the same sex.

Director Luca Guadagnino produced similar mixed reactions to his previous film, the English language remake A Bigger Splash. That one was driven more by plot and thus fell apart. Here, Guadagnino applies his eye for sunny European scenery to something intimate and personal. James Ivory, the director known for his collaborations with Indian producer Ismail Merchant like The Remains of the Day and Howards End, picks up a rare screenplay credit here and his writing, which moves the novel's events four years earlier, classes up what could be a tacky love story.

In "Call Me By Your Name", Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) ride their bikes around the countryside of Northern Italy.

Strong acting benefits the film considerably. Chalamet, who is far more American than his name suggests, makes for a compelling lead, conveying youth and vulnerability convincingly. Between this film and fellow Oscar-bound coming-of-age film Lady Bird, Chalamet may be someone you recognize moving forward. Hammer has been on the cusp of breaking out for seven years now, having been set back by non-starter aspiring tentpoles
(The Lone Ranger, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) and a sunken prestige project (last year's The Birth of a Nation). He probably can be ignored no longer and may be the film's safest bet for an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actor category. Also generating some buzz is Michael Stuhlbarg, a veteran of Oscar-nominated movies who's never gotten singled out with a nomination of his own. I don't think that streak will stop, since he's in the background for most of the movie until one meaningful scene near the end.

Call Me has been perceived as a serious awards contender for most of this year and it should probably live up to those expectations with nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay easy to imagine in a post-Moonlight cinescape. Thus far, most of the other films believed to be in the running have done more for me than this, but you'd have to be pretty close-minded not to see this and see if it doesn't produce stronger feelings in you.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: The Shape of WaterLady BirdThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, MissouriThe PostThe Florida ProjectThe Disaster Artist
Timothée Chalamet: Love the CoopersThe Adderall DiariesMen, Women & Children
Armie Hammer: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Lone RangerThe Birth of a Nation | Michael Stuhlbarg: A Serious ManHugoMen in Black 3Hitchcock
Directed by Luca Guadagnino: A Bigger Splash

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Reviewed December 22, 2017.

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