Elio's Memorable Summer of 1983: 'Call Me by Your Name' Review
In adolescence, teenagers usually discover the paths they wish to take in life, including the sort of person who attracts them sexually. That holds true for Elio Perlman, a dedicated student of music who pursues that passion. Another passion of his becomes known in the coming-of-age drama Call Me By Your Name. Much of this movie takes place during the summer of 1983, where Elio (Timothee Chalamet) works on musical transcription, as well as his piano and guitar playing. He lives in a small Italian village where his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg) studies archaeology and has made a home for his son and his wife Annella (Amira Casar). That year, Dr. Perlman invites his research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer) to spend several weeks with them as the grad student prepares a paper. Elio has to give up his own room for Oliver, which does not sit well with the boy.
He puts up with the inconvenience and spends time with his peers, including Marzia (Esther Garrel), who'd like to be Elio's boyfriend. Things change between Elio and Oliver, though, when Elio invites a few friends to the house. Oliver joins them in a game of volleyball, and gets into the friendly competition. Oliver gives Elio a friendly touch after that, which leads to other things. While Elio still see Marzia, he and Oliver plan a series of rendezvous in the night. It is there that Elio discovers the sort of intimacy he wants with Oliver. The Perlmans do see that special bond, and allow Elio to accompany Oliver on a short trip to Germany. Meanwhile, Marzia finds herself confused by her friend's behavior.
Call Me By Your Name, which is based on a novel by Andre Aciman, is an interesting, but ultimately tame, look at a brief relationship from director Luca Guadagnino. Both Elio and Oliver are openly comfortable around women. Elio, though, is a quiet young man, while Oliver is more outgoing. Both men do want to conform to a society that is more acccepting of opposite-sex relationships than the same-sex ones they desire. My complaints with the movie, however, aren't entirely about the relationship. As I remember 1983, men and women were already less likely to stay silent about their sexuality. Also, this was the era where AIDS first became known - and often proved fatal. No mention of the AIDS crisis gets mentioned here. Also, viewers might be disturbed about a romance between an adult man and a teen who's not quite eighteen. That age difference in 1983 wasn't as taboo then, but everybody here behaves wisely and maturely. The sincere scenario comes from James Ivory, who has famously directed himself, most notably Howards End and The Remains Of The Day. He shows the safety of discretion, but also shows two men conflicted about how they will live their lives once they go separate ways.
Chalamet, who also appears in another 2017 Best Picture nominee, Lady Bird, compassionately shows a young man who starts to come to terms with the person he is, and the person he wants to be. He like Marzia, and has sex with her, but he finds someone like Oliver is more to his liking. Elio also has to live with the reality that both of the relationships he has will end, and wants that few hard feelings will come from these break-ups. The final shot of shows Elio in contemplation as Oliver calls with a big announcement. Hammer is fine as Oliver, a handsome and charming man who has lived his life on the down low. That charm ingratiates him to the ladies, as well as to Elio. That quality helps Oliver when he catches Elio fooling around with a peach. It is he who utters the movie's title to Elio in a moment of intimacy. Stuhlbarg and Casar do a good job as supportive parents, and Garrel is sweet and pretty as Marzia. Author Aciman has a cameo as a dinner guest of the Perlmans who comes with his partner, and Elio jokingly likens them to Sonny and Cher.
Call Me By Your Name will not be a film for those who believe that God created Adam and Eve, but not Adam and Steve. Love with any partner, however, is never exactly the same in any two romantic relationships. A visit from a stranger shows a youngster a little bit of the love he would someday like to have. Each man has a public persona different from their private persona. The movie shows the struggle of two men trying to hide their sexual identity from the world. Their personal closets, though, may not stay shut forever.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Call Me By Your Name three stars. A call of truth in the night.