It is the summer of 1983 in Northern Italy, and the weather is sunny and swelteringly hot. 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) prefers to spend much of the season indoors at his family’s rustic home, reading and transcribing music. When twenty-something American student Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives to help Elio’s professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg) with research, the teenager finds himself instantly attracted to the man sleeping in the room next door. As the young men become acquainted, trying to intimidate the other with their knowledge of art, literature, and the classics, Elio and Oliver come to realize there may be more to their budding friendship.
Trying to find faults in Call Me By Your Name is like hoping to spot blemishes in a Hellenistic statue. This ravishing romance manages to be deeply sensual and fiercely intelligent – also an adequate description of the object of Elio’s affection. Chalamet, as a young man falling hopelessly in love, is fascinating to watch as he bottles up his feelings and hesitates to share them. Hammer, perfectly cast as the more confident Oliver, is also terrific as the more experienced man trying to break Elio out from his shell.
Director Luca Guadagnino, working from a James Ivory script, basks in the sights and local flavours of his native country. (André Aciman wrote the original novel Ivory adapts.) The filmmaker also tunes in to the various ways, from clothes to postures, that Elio begins to emulate his crush. As the sexual tension heats up, cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom adds striking turquoise hazes and blurry textures to the image to reflect the characters’ melting desires. The insatiable romance finds enormous emotional depth in Chalamet’s expressive performance. Various wordless shots featuring the young actor are among the purest displays of longing ever shown on a big screen.
Is Call Me By Your Name essential viewing?
Yes. Yes. 100 times yes. This is a romance well worth swooning over. And if the sniffling during the film’s pre-festival press screening is any indication, you may want to bring tissues.