Armie Hammer Timothee Chalamet Michael Stuhlbarg Amira Casar
This could be the most sensually charged film of the year. Every image and sound touches the senses, from the lowing of cattle, to the silvery glistening of the lake, to the boisterousness of partying and lovemaking, to the splash of bodies hitting water, to the lushness of the Italian landscape, to the warm embraces and lounging intimacy of family—I could go on. But you get the point—you will be wrapped in a new kind of cloth by Luca Guadagnino (director), James Ivory (screenplay), and Andre Aciman (Novel).
This is a coming-of-age story different from its predecessors. It centers around Elio (Chalamet), the teenage son of an American father and Italian mother who spend summers with his family in northern Italy. They host an American professor every summer who assists Professor Perlman (Stuhlbarg) in his archeological work. This year, they are hosting Oliver (Hammer), who immediately becomes popular for his looks, his physique, and his athletic skills, and still impresses his host with his academic knowledge.
The Perlmans’ son Elio is a young gifted musician/composer who is only grudgingly/tentatively dipping his toe into life experiences. He is trying out everything he can when he is brave enough, is slightly insecure, despite his adoring/supportive parents, and at first looks askance at his father’s new protégé. In adolescent style, he shows the newcomer his “old” bedroom, as he moves in next door, and takes the man around town to orient him; but something about Oliver catches his eye. He is both repelled by and attracted to him. He especially hates Oliver’s “Later!” when he takes his leave.
This will be an eventful summer for Elio as he makes discoveries about himself, Oliver, and others; but Oliver is touched as well in ways he hadn’t imagined before. The viewer will be surprised—or at least intrigued—by the meanderings of the story. It’s different from what we’ve seen before in its introduction of an evolving view of sexuality, one that is more naturalistic and, hopefully, more considerate and responsible.
Call Me By Your Name is a call for our recognition and respect for natural, human impulses and desires that may not fall into traditional dichotomous categories. It’s presented sensitively, humanistically, and realistically, and will be very valuable for adolescents searching for themselves.
Timothee Shalamet is a standout in his performance as Elio, as we see a remarkable transformation from his slightly sullen beginning of the summer to the smitten end. Armie Hammer is also perfect as the adult who is searching, ambivalent, and unsure, wanting to be circumspect and proper, yet fallible to human enticements.
This is a different coming-of-age story from the usual.