Filled to the brim with the humour and verve we’ve come to expect from Luca Guadagnino, the film is the third and final instalment of the Italian director’s ‘Desire’ trilogy which includes last year’s equally sun-drenched A Bigger Splash and 2009’s sumptuous I Am Love.
During a sweltering summer in 1980s northern Italy, we join 17-year old Elio who is holidaying with his parents at their spacious countryside villa.
The precocious teen fills his days reading, swimming, playing piano (he's extremely talented), casually flirting with his friend Marzia and generally, in his own words, ‘waiting for the summer to end’.
Those still waters are disturbed by the arrival of his father’s research assistant, Oliver, a 24-year old academic.
As handsome as the Grecian statues that he studies and with a confidence just shy of arrogance, he works his way into the affections of the local community, Elio’s parents and Elio himself.
Although tentative about acting on their desires, the pair slowly but surely circle in on each other and a passionate relationship develops.
Call Me By Your Name sweeps you off your feet and seamlessly through all of its 130 minute running time with some flawless storytelling. The infectious charm of the script — adapted from André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name — comes courtesy of veteran director James Ivory, best known for his heavily awarded E. M. Forster adaptations (A Room with a View, Maurice, Howards End).
The acting more than lives up to the expert writing. Up-and-comer Timothée Chalamet is brilliant as Elio, wavering between nonchalance and vulnerability. Armie Hammer’s charismatic performance extends his winning streak that stretches from his role in 2011’s J. Edgar to the recent Giacometti biopic Final Portrait, both tales of male intimacy.
Of course, his casting also adds to the controversially long line of heterosexual actors playing gay or queer characters.
However, the director’s own defence of his decision chimes with comments from Elio’s father, played by an extremely likeable Michael Stuhlbarg (also strong in the upcoming Shape of Water), near the end. In a moving speech, he places the emphasis not on sexuality but on the incredible luck of having found this connection.
And you can see what he means. This drama does take place in an incredibly fortunate bubble and we, like the central loved-up duo, are happy to bask in its iridescence and its lush Mediterranean surroundings.
When that bubble does eventually burst, as winter strikes and real life breaks in, we share in Elio’s ache but we also sense of truth of that old saying about having loved and lost.
Guadagnino’s approach would also explain why there’s no out-and-out sex scene (although there is a soon-to-be-infamous scene involving a peach). Instead, we are offered a glimpse of first love blooming on the very cusp of adulthood.
What will be truly be controversial is if Call Me By Your Name doesn’t make it onto every ‘Best of 2017’ list. It ranks among the very best coming-of-age dramas of the decade.
|Call Me By Your Name film review
|Various Locations | MAP
27 Oct 17 – 07 Mar 19, Times Vary
|£ determined by cinema
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