‘Call Me by Your Name’ Is a Triumphant and Emotional Love Story
“Call Me by Your Name” has all the right ingredients. Set in the picturesque Italian country, the film based on the novel of the same name was adapted by none other than James Ivory, the director who, along with his late partner Ismail Merchant, was behind sweeping romances such as “Heat and Dust.” Merchant and Ivory were especially known for featuring strong female leads, and while there is a young lady who gets her heartbroken here, the central romance of “Call Me by Your Name” is between two young men – sensitive 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) and dashing 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Helmed by Luca Guadagnino and set in 1983, this nuanced film explores what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, a milestone that can be complex and transformative no matter what is one’s gender and sexual orientation.
Chalamet, who is on a hot streak after portraying one of Saoirse Ronan’s love interests in “Lady Bird,” plays Elio, an American who has spent much of his life in Italy with his parents, Lyle (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor, and Annella (Amira Casar). The young man’s summer routine of reading, relaxing and partying with his friends is disrupted by the arrival of Oliver, a doctoral student who has come to stay with the Perlmans. Elio feels an attraction almost immediately, and their sharing of a wall and a bathroom amplifies the undeniable sexual tension between the two. Oliver similarly takes a liking to Elio, but the two tread lightly at first, starting off as friends, going out to parties together and enjoying nature during these early halcyon days. It isn’t just Oliver’s good looks that attracts Elio. Confident, athletic and intelligent, Oliver is that all-American kind of golden boy that most other guys want to be and many girls swoon over.
While Oliver flirts around, Elio finds himself drawn into a relationship with his long-time friend Marzia (Esther Garrel). There’s genuine heat between the pair, proving that sexuality isn’t always black and white. But ultimately their relationship can be nothing more than a summer fling, as Elio’s real feelings are reserved for Oliver, and when the two finally come together, it’s worth the wait. Oliver, for his part, seems to truly care for Elio, but is ultimately less emotionally invested than the younger man, or perhaps more conventional, as their love story culminates here in a bittersweet ending that is predictable, but nonetheless emotionally stirring, in no small part due to Chalamet’s phenomenal performance.
There’s plenty of love to go around in “Call Me by Your Name,” and not just between the two leads. Unlike most protagonist in films about young people grappling with their sexuality, Elio has unusually loving and supportive parents. Although Mrs. Perlman is a pretty one-note adoring wife and mother, Stuhlbarg really gets to shine here, especially in one scene towards the end in which father and son have an unforgettable heart-to-heart.
“Call Me by Your Name” lives up to a lot of the hype regarding its steamy sex scenes, as Chalamet can really light up the screen whether he’s being intimate with a man, woman, or, in one unforgettable scene, a piece of fruit. Also, with the film being set in the awesome eighties, one would be remiss not to mention it’s fun dance scenes and soundtrack, which includes classics from the likes of the Psychedelic Furs.
“Call Me by Your Name” opens Nov. 24 in Los Angeles and New York with a national release to follow.