Susan Granger’s review of “Call Me By Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Director Luca Guadagnino (“A Bigger Splash”) chronicles the confusing, often conflicting sexual urges and coming-of-age of an introverted adolescent experiencing his first romance.
Set in a picturesque 17th century villa in a small, bucolic town near Lake Garda in northern Italy during the summer of 1983, a dramatic conflict erupts when restless 17 year-old musician Elio (Timothee Chalamet) encounters 24 year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer), a visiting American graduate student.
Ostensibly there to help Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an eminent professor of Greco-Roman culture, confident, curious Oliver casually befriends capricious Elio, not realizing that his seductive presence has awakened Elio’s youthful ardor. Although both Elio and Oliver have dalliances with local women, an engaging, erotic, clandestine attraction soon develops between them.
Adapted by James Ivory from Andre Aciman’s 2007 autobiographical novel and sumptuously photographed by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, it’s a showcase for Timothee Chalamet, who exhibits heartbreakingly raw awkwardness, coupled with infectious enthusiasm.
Also for 6’5” tall Armie Hammer, who looks like a perfectly proportioned Praxiteles sculpture and is the great grandson of industrialist Armand Hammer; Armie catapulted to fame as the Winklevoss twins in “The Social Network.”
The third member of the outstanding acting trio is Michael Stuhlbarg, as the understanding, accepting father, who just wants his son to find happiness. He delivers an idyllic, advice-giving speech about tolerance and love that crucially affects the entire scope of the story.
Since it’s obvious that both young men are bisexual, the storyline gives the impression that homosexuality is a choice. That’s a controversial topic because, while many scientists claim that sexual preference is genetically determined, perhaps sexual preference can be changed. And watching this film opens up that discussion.
“We both realized that the story was simultaneously important, fresh, relevant, artistic and out there,” admits Chalamet.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Call Me By Your Name” is a subtly stirring, sensitive 7 – about a sensuous summer that could change the course of a boy’s life.