Call Me by Your Name

call-me-by-your-name-rev Call Me by Your Name  (2017)    Sony Pictures Classics/Drama    RT: 132 minutes    Rated R (sexual content, nudity, some language)    Director: Luca Guadagnino    Screenplay: James Ivory    Music: Sufjan Stevens    Cinematography: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom    Release date: December 22, 2017 (Philadelphia, PA)    Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothee Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victorie Du Bois, Vanda Capriolo, Antonio Rimoldi.     Partially spoken in Italian and French w/English subtitles


 It’s not easy recapturing moments in time as memory always alters things a bit. The summers of our youth always seem longer, sunnier and brighter. Then there’s that one summer we’ll always remember because it’s the summer we experienced true love for the first time. For me, it was 1987. For Elio, a 17-year-old American-Jewish boy vacationing with his parents in the Italian countryside, it was the summer of ’83. This is the subject of Call Me by Your Name, a beautiful and sensitive drama from Luca Guadagnino. It’s the third part of his Desire trilogy which also includes I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015).

 call me by your nameLove is never an easy thing especially when you’ve never experienced it before. It’s more complicated for Elio (Chalamet, Lady Bird) because his first pangs of love are directed at Oliver (Hammer, The Social Network), an American doctoral student interning for his father (Stuhlbarg, The Shape of Water) for the summer. Ar first, the two don’t get along. Elio doesn’t like that he had to give up his bedroom for their guest. He also doesn’t like his glib attitude. He spends most of his time reading books, playing the piano and hanging out with his cute French girlfriend Marzia (Garrel, 17 Girls). Eventually, Elio and Oliver call a truce and start becoming friends. Elio starts becoming attracted to the older man who resists at first but ultimately gives in. A relationship forms but deep down, they know it can never last.

 Call Me by Your Name is positively gorgeous to look at. The lush scenery is beyond beautiful. It’s the perfect setting for a story about first love with the sunny skies, tree-lined roads, old architectural structures and gentle breezes. You can practically smell the apricots and peaches that grow on the trees. The days and nights move slowly. It seems like the summer could go on forever. If I could live in a movie, it would likely be this.

 In the midst of it is Elio, an unusually sophisticated teen who can speak three languages (English, Italian and French) flawlessly. It’s obviously his upbringing. His father is a professor of Greco-Roman culture; his mother (Casar, Saint Laurent) is a translator. Elio is a smart kid with a quick wit and high intellect yet just as self-conscious as any other teen. Chalamet’s performance is perfectly calibrated in the way he balances gawky and mature beyond his years. Just as good is Hammer as Oliver. He’s a confident, cocky type whose vulnerability starts to come out as he allows himself to give in to his true feelings for Elio. He’s the more experienced of the two yet he allows himself to fall into a relationship he knows will never last. He loves Elio but he’s realistic about it. Garrel is great as the girlfriend whose heart is broken when Elio starts to ignore her. Her eventual acceptance of his sexuality is one of the film’s most tender moments.

 For all its good points, Call Me by Your Name is simply too long. Maybe a better word is slow. Either way, it’s a film that requires a lot of patience. I understand why Guadagnino paces it as he does. Remember what I said about the summers of youth seeming endless? That’s the feeling he’s going for and he nails it. I was in awe of scenes showing little more than Elio and his friends hanging out and swimming or dancing at a club. I also like the director’s soundtrack choices. He opens the movie with a classical piece (“Hallelujah Junction, 1st Movement”) that nicely sets the moods. At the club, the kids dance to Giorgio Moroder’s “Lady, Lady” (an obscure selection from the hit 1983 movie Flashdance) and “Love My Way”.  The Psychedelic Furs is actually used twice to different effects. “Words” (by F.R. David) is used to nice effect during a love-making scene between Elio and Marzia. The intimate scenes between Elio and Oliver are handled tastefully, tenderly and sensitively. There’s a scene involving a peach that works not for its shock value but for the boldness of the filmmaker to retain it from the original novel. The more I think about Call Me by Your Name, the more I like it. I wouldn’t say it’s the year’s best movie but it’s certainly up there with the better ones.

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