Call Me By Your Name is the type of film you want to climb into, set up camp, and live inside for an extended period of time. By this rationale, it'd be the opposite of Jordan Peele's Get Out, a movie whose landscape you'd choose to avoid at all costs. Quite the contrary for director Luca Guadagnino's leisurely, lush and heartachingly romantic excursion, which beckons you into its frames with every visual cue, then lulls you into wanting to linger by weaving an embracing message of inclusion, of first-love experimentation, and of finding a way to be comfortable in our own skin, no matter how challenging that journey may seem.
Set in 1983, Call Me By Your Name transports us to the bewitching country climes of Northern Italy, where graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) has come to study archaeology with his professor, Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg). The pace of life at the Perlman abode is languid -- borderline slothful -- leaving Oliver plenty of time to soak up the Italian climate, the culture, the atmosphere... and the attention of Perlman's teenage son, Elio (Timothee Chalamet).
The relationship stages captured on screen between Elio and Oliver in Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name are timeless, universal, and yet largely unexplored in mainstream cinema because they happen to occur between two men. Elio's stuck in an instantly recognizable limbo. He's very much a boy, yet he's panged by the awarenesses of a man, and this movie conveys that longing in ways we rarely see. This is a very sensual story about how love and erotic passion can consume a person, particularly a budding teenager whose hormones encourage him (or her) to basically lust after anything in sight. Even a peach. Especially a peach.
It helps that Guadagnino gets to point his camera at objects that stimulate salivatory motions in a captive audience, from Italy's quaint and gorgeous landscapes to the statuesque presence of a ridiculously attractive Armie Hammer. My running joke on Call Me is that working title might as well be Everyone Wants To Fuck Armie Hammer, because he's the quintessential object of desire at the heart of this film, and it works to the story's advantage. Both leads are spectacular, playing off of each other and wrapping the sensual glow of the landscape around them. But Hammer, in particular, plays Oliver with a cavalier sense of awareness about his attractiveness, and the power it has over anyone in his stratosphere. Watch him throw back his head and dance to "Love My Way" by the Psychedelic Furs. He knows it's a moment that will transcend the movie and live on as a symbol of sexual freedom, of carefree wont. And he's right. It does.
It'd be understandable if Call Me By Your Name threw it into neutral gear and coasted to easy conclusions about first loves or unhealthy obsessions. But the drama establishes itself as a humane conversation starter with a firm grip on its characters for the chances it takes in its final act with two devastating emotional beats saved fir the closing moments of this beautiful story. I won't tell you what they are, but I'll tell you that they involve Michael Stuhlbarg and his words of wisdom, and Timothee Chalamet and his haunting stare.
With these moments lending Call Me By Your Name a powerful net in which to land, you will see why Luca Guadagnino's tender romance is being embraced by an inclusive audience for the raw emotions it commits to the screen, and the unflinching way it celebrates homosexual passion between two handsome ships that crossed paths in the night.
Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. He's frequently found on Twitter at @Sean_OConnell. ReelBlend cohost. A movie junkie who's Infatuated with comic-book films. Helped get the Snyder Cut released, then wrote a book about it.
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