I’m a bit late to the Call Me By Your Name craze that’s been sweeping the film festival circuit since last January, but nevertheless, I’m here. I read the book last month and I finished it in two days. After I turned the final page, I knew then, why so many were going absolutely insane over this. Though I also knew, especially in this current climate, that there would be a certain amount of push back.
Call Me By Your Name centers on seventeen year old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) who lives ‘Somewhere in Italy’, in the year 1983. Elio’s family is well-off, you can tell once you see the house in full-view; it looks as if it were built in a different century. We see Elio, in the opening frames with a woman around his age named Marzia, and we, like Elio, hear a car pulling up in front of the house and that’s when he sees Oliver (Armie Hammer). The family has a tradition where every summer they have a graduate student come for the summer to help Elio’s father with his studies. You can see Elio is simultaneously curious, fearful and annoyed by Oliver, at first. Likely due to the discomfort of the feelings that Oliver’s presence brings out in Elio.
Like in the novel, this relationship is slowly built between these two characters. It’s clear the two are wrestling with this desire that neither have the language to express to one another, but once the truth comes out, there’s even more anxiety on how to handle this situation and whether or not this attraction should be fully expressed.
When I heard about the general plot I wasn’t sure if this was a good message to be sending; A seventeen year old with a twenty-four year old? I thought, despite the initial praise, that this movie would be savaged when it hit general release just for the plot alone. Then I remembered that Dirty Dancing is extremely beloved and features a character who is supposed to be seventeen years old entering a relationship with someone who’s older (Patrick Swayze was thirty-four when it was filmed), and I don’t remember reading about an outrage over that. Having actually read the book and watched the movie, it’s not what a small minority fears it is. This is thanks, in no small part, to Armie Hammer and, especially, Timothee Chalamet, who gives probably the best performance I’ve seen all year and is almost assured an Oscar nomination. Yet, as I think back, neither of them have anything I would consider to be an “Oscar scene”. Chalamet has the now famous, four minute, one-take, end credit sequence and while that scene is pretty incredible to watch, the viewer has to watch the entire movie from start to finish to understand that sequence’s cumulative power. I also have to give credit to Michael Stuhlbarg (who plays Elio’s father), who in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, delivers a monologue that comes from the book nearly word-for-word, brilliantly.
Last, but certainly not least, I have to say that the film’s director (Luca Guadagnino) deserves a lot more attention than he’s getting. There are so many long takes, that, I didn’t even realize just how complicated it must’ve been to actually complete a certain scene until I thought about it later. Like everything else about the film, it all seemed so effortless.