One of the finest films you’ll see this year is Call Me By Your Name. The latest from Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) is a visually lush and emotionally burning story set in the summer of 1983 in a 17th century villa in northern Italy. The Perlman family is made up of intelligent, cultured and restless souls, including 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet, who also stars in Lady Bird and the upcoming Hostiles), son of a professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and translator (Amira Casar).
As he does every year, the professor hires an intern to help him out with his work, and this particular year, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who is working on his doctorate, fits the bill of both scholar and perfect male specimen. While Elio flirts with a local girl (Esther Garrel), he finds himself drawn to Oliver’s confidence and seemingly limitless knowledge, and the two spend a great deal of the summer together, swimming, sunbathing, cycling, and eventually, unexpectedly falling for each other.
Working from a screenplay by filmmaker James Ivory (based on the novel by André Aciman), Guadagnino treats this story of first love like he would any other, regardless of the gender of the two leads. Call Me By Your Name isn’t the kind of film where we’re waiting for that terrible moment when the two young men are discovered by closed-minded others; he allows them to slowly grow their friendship into a meaningful love affair. Elio’s age is something of an issue; although he is exceedingly mature and independent for his age, he’s also incapable of handling feelings this deep and complex, and it leads to a load of hurt at times.
The movie never gets tawdry or salacious or silly; Guadagnino has certainly featured far more graphic sexual encounters in his films in the past. But the performances are rich and patient, while the story allows for unexpected revelations and attitudes to reveal themselves beautifully. The director’s use of location is almost too good to be true, and will likely make you want to book at trip to Italy immediately. Look for Call Me By Your Name to appear on many Best of 2017 lists in the coming weeks.
The film opens today at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.