Monday, March 12, 2018

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

I'm sure it speaks to my semi-isolated US-centric view of things that I spent most of Call Me by Your Name waiting for something bad to happen. Spoiler alert I'm happy to say nothing does—mostly only good things, though it can be a little painful getting to some of them. I might have known, because it's a coming-of-age movie, which are generally more tender affairs, and because the screenplay was written by James Ivory, the long-time collaborator with Ismail Merchant, who together created a genteel upholstered cinema empire in the '80s and '90s (A Room With a View, Howards End, The Remains of the Day, etc.). Director Luca Guadigno was responsible for 2009's I Am Love, a sumptuous Tilda Swinton vehicle that honestly left me underwhelmed—a beautiful but empty vessel. Guadigno also directed A Bigger Splash in 2015, which I don't know. Those two are the first parts of a trilogy that this movie finishes. Call Me by Your Name is not nearly as stylized as I recall I Am Love being, but it's equally fixated on the ways of the sensuous heart. Set in the summer of 1983 in northern Italy, the story involves Oliver (Armie Hammer, who played the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network), a young graduate student who is coming to work for six weeks with a distinguished professor of Greek and Roman cultures. Oliver stays with the professor and his family in their villa. Oliver and the family's 17-year-old son Elio (Timothee Chalamet) find they have an instant rapport. It's not without some personality friction, but eventually things get hot between them. I wouldn't say Call Me by Your Name is a fantasy for how accepting everyone in their orbit is of their relationship—it remains clandestine, but Elio gets real and unconditional support from his family and even a quasi-girlfriend. So it's pretty close to a fantasy (at least from my US-centric view). But it certainly feels good to see people treating each other so well. Hammer and Chalamet have a lot to do with making this movie work. The chemistry feels authentic, the intimacy awkward and wonderful by turns, the dilemma posed by what they are doing intimidating. There are no bad people in this movie, which I'm sure is only one reason it got a 10-minute standing ovation at the New York Film Festival last year. The note it ends on, the final image, made me want to stand on my chair clapping for a few minutes too. Well done.


  1. If you haven't seen Free Fire, see it. I just loved Armie Hammer in that (well I loved everyone in that).

  2. That's one I meant to see, I will check it out, thanks!