“Call Me by Your Name” succeeds where so many other love stories fail.
I have a general aversion to romantic subplots, and here's the reason: If you want to show two people falling in love, it probably needs to be what the whole movie is about.
“Call Me by Your Name” is a movie about two people falling in love. It's the kind of movie that's deceptively simple, but one that lingers. In other words, it's the best kind of movie.
Its setting, story and characters are specific, but there's a universality to this depiction of the thrills and pains of first love. And thanks to beautiful direction by Luca Guadagnino and stellar performances throughout, it's one of the best films in theaters currently crowded by great films.
It's the summer of 1983 in a quaint village in Northern Italy. Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) is a 17-year-old spending the summer with his parents.
Elio's father is an acclaimed professor of archaeology, and each summer he allows a graduate student to live and study with his family. This summer's student is Oliver (Armie Hammer).
Elio is a fairly typical precocious teen, although he's smart beyond his years. Upon Oliver's arrival, however, he can hardly contain his attraction to him, both physical and intellectual.
“Call Me by Your Name” succeeds where so many other love stories fail in that it takes enough time to make the audience not only believe the love story, but understand why.
Chalamet's performance is the key to the entire film, and it's a true breakout. His Elio is smart and self-aware, with a wisdom beyond his years that erases his age gap with Oliver. But his confidence has an undertone of hesitance — neither he nor Oliver is open with their sexuality.
Hammer also sells the other half of the romance in great support, and Michael Stuhlbarg shares one of the most heart-rending scenes of the past year with Chalamet as Elio's father.
Working from a script by James Ivory (adapted from the novel by André Aciman), Guadagnino gives the love story a bubbling authenticity and bathes it in the warm glow of its idealized setting. The film's visual sense is a character all its own.
“Call Me by Your Name” is a generational coming-of-age love story that crosses boundaries, and it's a truly great one.