PLOT- Set in Northern Italy during the early-eighties, Call Me by Your Name, follows seventeen year old Elio ( Timothee Chalamet) as he falls in love with Oliver ( Armie Hammer), an American graduate student who is spending the summer with Elio's family.
LIKE- Call Me by Your Name is getting a lot of hype and award nominations. I had heard nothing but great things about it and was thrilled that it was still playing at my favorite theater in Portland.
The Northern Italy setting is nothing less than stunning. Set in the lazy days of summer, Call Me By Your Name is filled with characters sunning themselves, playing in the local lake, and enjoying fresh produce. Seriously, you will be envious of lives these characters are enjoying and you'll be ready to book your next vacation. It also gives a relaxed, laid-back tone to the entire movie.
Chalamet shines every time he's on the screen. He carries the entire film with his complex portrayal of a teenager experiencing confusion, love, and heartbreak. He has earned a much-deserved Academy Award nomination for best actor for this role. Hammer is well-cast as Elio's love interest, but Chalamet is the scene-stealer.
DISLIKE- I love the fact that Elio is surrounded by kind and supportive people. His parents are the coolest parents on the planet, the kind of parents that every kid should have. Good people populate Call Me By Your Name. On the flip-side, this makes for a rather dull and conveniant story. These are people I want to know in real life, not necessarily the ones that I want to see in a movie.
I need to elaborate, but to do so, there will be spoilers.
Elio is seventeen and Oliver is several years older, perhaps in his mid-late twenties. Elio's parents, (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar), see that their son is interested in this older man and not only tell him that it's okay, but they push the two together. They also know that Elio has shown interested in several girls his age in town, including sleeping with Marzia (Esther Garrel). When Elio breaks it off with Marzia, she comes back to let him know that it's okay, revealing her knowledge of Elio's interest in Oliver, and tells him that she still cares for him and wants to be friends.
Okay...so this is all wonderful and supportive, but it felt fake. Even if his parents are supportive with Elio dating an older guy, why are they so cavalier about him messing with girls his age too? Why is there no caution that he might be hurting others? And although Marzia might be ultimately supportive, her support came far too easy. There is no conflict. Great stories need conflict. And in the end, although it is revealed that Oliver is getting married and Elio is broken hearted, this is done in the nicest way ever. Oliver isn't a jerk- again, great for real life, not great for a movie.
But what really bothered me was all of the misdirection. You've probably heard the storytelling adage that you never mention a gun, unless you intend to use it? Call Me By Your Name didn't have a gun, but it had other similar red-flags that didn't pan out.
Elio is shown with bloody noses for no reason and at one point he gets dizzy. I'm fairly certain every movie goer thought that he was sick, I though that this was perhaps why his parents were allowing him to date an older man: wanting to give a sick kid a chance to experience life. Nope, no more mention of Elio being sick. Then there was several mentions of the town being prejudice and having to hide who you are: hiding being Jewish and hiding being gay. I thought for certain that this was going to crop up in an ugly way. Nope. Nothing happens, even though there are plenty of close-up shots on religious items and talk of prejudice. Nothing happens at all. This is simply a nice story with nice people.
RECOMMEND- Maybe. Call Me By Your Name is certainly beautiful and generally an uplifting story. Chalamet and the film are nominated for Oscars. However, this is definitely lacking in the storytelling department.