Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me by Your Name” takes the audience on a whimsical journey of romance and sexual curiosity. The film — based on André Aciman’s novel of the same name — beautifully portrays the worry-free summers of Northern Italy during the early 1980s. The gorgeous countrysides and romantic piano soundtrack surround the fascinating and erotic relationship between the 17-year-old Elio Perlman, played by the impressive Timothée Chalamet, and 24-year-old Oliver, portrayed by the charming Armie Hammer. While the story occasionally draws itself out, the film was both compelling and visually stunning, especially for the viewers who focus on each nuance of the meticulous script.
Elio is the son of a progressive and intellectual Jewish couple. His father (Michael Stuhlbarg) is an archaeology professor who invites one graduate student to study with him each summer at their Italian summer house. In 1983, Elio’s father chooses to bring Oliver, a confident but occasionally impertinent American.
The plot revolves around Elio’s six-month sexual and emotional transformation. Chalamet’s role at the beginning of this film as an egotistical teenager is very similar to his character in “Lady Bird.” Elio spends his days reading books, composing music and having on-and-off relationships with girls. This cycle is thrown for a spin when Oliver enters the scene. At first, Oliver’s bold, outspoken persona and stoic physique don't intrigue Elio, but the moment he takes it upon himself to start massaging Elio’s back, their journey of sexual curiosity begins.
As the weeks pass, the plot of Elio and Oliver’s relationship progresses in a rather predictable fashion. However, Guadagnino crafted the movie so the focus is never on the plot itself — the story’s simplistic nature allows for an undivided attention to character development.
The mountain of awards Chalamet has already received for his work portraying Elio is justified. He had to sell this complex relationship with his own body just as much as his relationship with Hammer. The depth he adds to Elio’s character is truly mesmerizing and depicted with extreme precision. Every word and facial expression by Chalamet could not have been more fitting for each moment.
The real mystery of this film is Oliver. While portrayed as the most sexually desired character throughout the film, his internal personality mostly remains a vague mystery during his time in Italy. Upon his arrival at the Perlman house, Oliver’s confidence is challenged by his growing interest in Elio. A lot of Oliver’s inner conflict doesn’t seem to come from the fact Elio is his professor’s son — if anything, Elio’s parents seem to support the relationship. Oliver’s hesitation with Elio is often fueled by his faith in Judaism, and throughout each sexual encounter, Hammer’s body language perfectly conveys what holds him back from being truly vulnerable.
Each interaction between Elio and Oliver has a purpose. The obvious age difference between the two may initially be disconcerting, but the intimacy in this film never feels that way due to Guadagnino’s focus on consent and sexual reassurance. There is a sense of safety that allows for a more in-depth focus on the emotion of each moment.
Hidden behind this intricate love story is the understated role of Elio’s father. The wisdom Stuhlbarg’s character gives Elio adds an important perspective throughout the film, and the story would not have been complete without his powerful monologue toward the conclusion that gives the entire film a deeper meaning.
“Call Me by Your Name” does not have any plot twists or intense scenes, as both would be unnecessary. The performances of its lead actors are all memorable, but Guadagnino’s impeccable devotion to detail is what defines this masterpiece. From the stunning cinematography to the astounding soundtrack, featuring songs by Sufjan Stevens that perfectly complement the film, each element of the production helps connect the audience to this wonderful fantasy. Above all else, the film does an excellent job at showing the deep and raw emotions of true love.
Final Grade: A-
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