ReelBob: ‘Call Me by Your Name’ ★★★★
By Bob Bloom
Elio is 17 years old, straddling that precarious time between adolescence and adulthood, when emotions are raw and this teen is still trying to discover who he really is.
He is curious and vulnerable, wearing a false bravado like a suit of armor. Elio also is very smart, but at his age, intellect and feelings sometimes are at odds, battling not so much for the soul as for the framework of the man he will become.
This is the poignant centerpiece of director Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name.”
The movie, written by James Ivory, is set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983. Elio and his family are living in a 17th century villa, while Elio’s father, a prominent professor specializing in Greco-Roman culture — played by Michael Stuhlbarg — is working in the area.
The family is joined by Oliver (Armie Hammer), a charming, but somewhat arrogant American grad student, who is the summer intern of Elio’s father.
From the outset, Oliver and Elio begin to dance around each other, trying to ascertain who the other is — and why some sort of attraction brews between them.
“Call Me by Your Name” unwinds at a leisurely pace, taking its time in developing the budding relationship between Elio and Oliver, set against the beautiful backdrop of the Italian countryside.
The movie’s sensual vibe emphasizes the flush of first love — and sexual confusion — that Elio feels for Oliver is understandable.
Oliver seems so self-assured and poised in his quiet, yet confident, manner that Elio is fascinated by him.
Guadagnino’s film is more of a mood piece, emphasizing tone and setting.
“Call Me by Your Name” plays more like a memory piece as if either Elio and Oliver are remembering their summer, rather than the immediacy of the here-and-now.
It’s a movie that requires patience and a keen eye for the nuances of a budding romance — a touch of the shoulder, a sideways glance or the brushing of a hand.
The subtleties of first love lay the foundation for Elio and Oliver’s relationship.
Because he is older, you’d think Oliver would be more at ease, but as “Call Me by Your Name” progresses, he displays a sensitivity and depth of feeling that he hid in a veil of nonchalance.
The performances of Timothée Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver are wonderfully deceiving.
They imbue their characters with complexities and awkwardness that belie the simplicity of the overall story.
Their characters feel authentic as they slowly embrace their true feelings about each other.
Chalamet, especially, surprises because he keeps under wraps an inner strength and maturity that contradict his age and experience.
“Call Me by Your Name” warmly and objectively captures the exhilaration and heartbreak of first love. It floats by like a cloud and softly embraces you like a tender hug. It is a glorious and erotic experience.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
4 stars out of 4
(R), sexual content, nudity, language