Tamara’s take

There are very few movies that have stayed with me after exiting the cinema. When I watched “Call Me By Your Name,” I really could not get a feeling for it. There were no outside forces, no reasons move for change or activism that I had seen in several films these past 18 months. What’s so hard about spending the summer of 1983 in Northern Italy just playing the piano in a rustic Italian villa that is a summer getaway. I felt nothing in common with Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old who spent most of his days fooling around with the Italian girls, riding his bicycle, and wearing the same swimming trunks. His parents, Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and translator Annella (Amira Casar), surround him with books in thousands of languages and and a house staff to clean up after him. Outside of his Jewish heritage that makes him a minority in the small Italian town, I didn’t feel much sympathy for the teenager.

The same feeling was directed at Oliver (Armie Hammer), an arrogant 24-year-old graduate student selected to help the professor with his work in Greco-Roman studies. He ends every conversation with “Later!” (this is 1983, after all), and is not afraid to correct Mr. Perlman in public. Oliver is out every night, gambling, dancing with the locals and more. At first, Oliver is another one of the same roles Hammer has played since he made waves as Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss in 2010’s “The Social Network.” Unlike Elio, Oliver shines his Jewish heritage brightly with a gold Star of David necklace.

 What unfolds is a back-and-forth wave of feelings, sensuality and connection between Elio and Oliver. For the teen, his emotions are all over the place. They go from the piano keys to the affections of Marzia (Esther Garrel), a French girl in the village. But deep down, he pulled by Oliver, who at first was giving him signals but back off when the feelings weren’t reciprocated. When Elio finally opens up to Oliver, in probably one of the most beautiful settings in the film, their actions unfold organically. Set to songs by Sufjan Stevens, their love affair bridges the missed cues and lost moments with making the most of what time they have that summer.

“Call Me By Your Name” celebrates love in all forms, ranging from acceptance to long-lasting marriages like that of Elio’s parents. Perhaps the best tribute to it is from Mr. Perlman’s monologue near the end.

But as beautiful as it was, with director Luca Guadagnino choosing to shoot summertime Italy with film over digital, I didn’t feel much for Elio. It wasn’t set during the AIDS epidemic (unlike the novel on which it is based in 1987). Instead, it’s a basic, non-melodramatic love story. The leads are straight men who perform nonexplotitive sex scenes together. There’s a point where Oliver asks Elio if he had come on to him like a molester, and it was an awkward moment.

However, in the few days that followed that screening, I recalled the tiny details, how much of a challenge this is for Elio. Despite living in an accepting environment where he still had to hide his religion, he battled with himself over his feelings for Oliver. I wanted to keep a log of Mr. Perlman’s lines with me, and Stuhlbarg continues to be the right actor for every role he plays.

As I look at my own movie collection, I recall the plot twist in each one. “Call Me By My Name” has one in that there isn’t one. It’s telling that so much of the novel and how the characters change are left of the film just to make a love story. Then again, Hollywood’s answer to romance is the vomit-inducing “Fifty Shades of Grey” franchise.

Three and a half stars out of five.

 

“Call Me By Your Name”

Rebecca’s Take
The fleeting freedom of summer, the romantic yearning of youth and the picturesque landscapes of Italy set the stage for the beautiful and poignant “Call Me By Your Name.” The sensual drama about a 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet) who falls for his father’s graduate assistant (Armie Hammer) captures the awkwardness, joy and heartbreak of first love. It’s not so much a coming-out story as it is a coming-of-age story.
Under Luca Guadagnino’s artful direction, “Call Me By Your Name” appeals to the senses, relishing the pleasure of living in the moment. With powerful performances by Chalamet, Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg, “Call Me By Your Name” is a masterpiece meant to be savored.
In 1983, intellectual teen Elio (Chalamet) is staying with his parents at their serene villa in Italy for the summer. Elio’s father, Professor Perlman (Stuhlbarg), studies archaeology and hosts a research assistant every summer. This year, it’s Oliver (Hammer), an outgoing 24-year-old graduate student.
At first, Oliver’s vivacious personality conflicts with Elio’s introspective nature. Elio would much rather read and compose music than dance with the neighborhood girls like Oliver. But as the summer sun grows stronger, so does the attraction between the two. With time working against them, Elio and Oliver embark upon a romance that will forever change the two men.
“Call Me By Your Name” creates an idyllic summer romance that takes its time, stopping to appreciate the here and now. The optimism of the early ’80s seeps into the bright colors of Elio’s shirts. Characters sip orange juice, bite into ripened fruit, and meet for relaxed dinners.
As Elio and Oliver sit by the pool, the camera lingers on their glistening bodies. The two exchange furtive glances as a mutual seduction builds. The push-and-pull between Hammer and Chalamet is palpable and steamy.
Elio and Oliver’s romance feels real as it blossoms. It’s a slow burn as the two characters learn to read each other’s signals, but “Call Me By Your Name” never feels slow. Surrounded by Italy’s lush beauty, the pair’s courtship involves taking long bike rides through the countryside, swimming in a hidden oasis and walking through sweeping fields. Nature itself is a character, bringing out Elio and Oliver’s true selves.
Chalamet is a revelation as the sensitive Elio. The cultured teen can speak English, Italian and French, but he’s naïve when it comes to matters of the heart. As Elio deals with his feelings for Oliver, he fools around with local girl Marzia (the likable and lovely Esther Garrel). Chalamet makes Elio sympathetic as the teen explores his sexuality, trying to figure out the man he’s growing up to be.
Hammer gives a captivating performance as the conflicted Oliver. The character’s overconfidence masks a vulnerable soul on his own journey of self-discovery. But if “Call Me By Your Name” has any flaws, it’s that we don’t get to know Oliver as deeply as we do Elio.
While Chalamet and Hammer are the film’s beating heart, its secret weapon is Stuhlbarg. The hard-working actor (he appears in three Academy Award Best Picture nominees) commands his scenes as Elio’s wise and open-minded father. In a moment of heart-tugging acceptance, Stuhlbarg delivers a moving monologue about love that will bring tears to your eyes.
“Call Me By Your Name” is a stunning and emotional triumph of the heart. The coming-of-age film, among the best in its genre, reminds us that it’s better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all.
Five out of five stars