Set in the summer of 1983 in the marvelous, sun-dappled northern Italian countryside, Call Me by Your Name is as beautiful to look at as it is to just simply sit back and experience. Anchored by the astounding Timothée Chalamet (who is also lighting up the screen in Lady Bird and Hostiles these days), the film is a captivating look at young love and everything that can possibly come along with it.
Chalamet stars as Elio Perlman, the teenaged son of an archaeology professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) who annually has a graduate student come to his villa for six weeks to help with research. The most recent student is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a pedantic, off-putting Adonis who can’t depart a room without a flippant “Later.”
Elio is physically attracted to Oliver almost immediately, and eventually (during a brilliant single-shot scene in town one afternoon), they dance around their feelings and gradually discover their mutual attraction.
Their secret relationship grows over the course of a few weeks, slowly at first and then with more passion, but as they continue, so do the games. Both spend their off time courting the local girls and avoiding each other, even as their emotions get more heated. Before everything comes to its inevitable conclusion, we’re witness to one of the screen’s more memorable and believable love stories.
Call Me by Your Name is an exquisitely crafted film than ambles along like a thoughtful stroll on a warm summer day, and it’s powered by a deep and moving (and Oscar-nominated) script by James Ivory, based on the bestseller by André Aciman. It gives ample time to delve into Elio’s heart and soul, as the story is told through his eyes, and doesn’t waste time on pointless exposition; we’re thrown right into the events and gradually learn what’s going on as it all unfolds.
Director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) steers the ship with a gentle hand, relying primarily on the outstanding performances of the cast to carry the film. And they are indeed outstanding. The 22-year-old Chalamet, in particular, is almost mind-bogglingly brilliant, giving one of the more powerful and moving performances of the year (and well worth his newfound standing as the youngest Best Actor nominee since Mickey Rooney in 1939). He makes Elio seem like an extension of himself; it’s a seemingly effortless performance, and heaven help you if you aren’t moved terrifically by the extended closing shot.
Call Me by Your Name is a tender and honest film about young love that never feels cloying or trite or that it’s trying to do anything other than tell its story beautifully. It invites you to sit back and just let it wash over you, and that’s an invitation well worth accepting.