Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

By Maria Lubanovic, Staff Writer
[Sony Pictures Classics; 2018]
Rating: 7/10

Are you ready for cycling, smoking, subtitles and sex with a literal fruit?

Call Me By Your Name, based on the book by the same name, includes all of these underneath a relationship between 17-year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and 24-year old Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio is a book-loving musical prodigy whose family speaks several languages and hosts grad students to study archeology in Italy. Oliver moves into Elio’s house to work with Elio’s father, where they spend a lot of time swimming, reading, riding bicycles and bonding over their Jewish-American heritage, until they admit their feelings and finally get together in a physically intimate way.

The whole film is set in picturesque northern Italy and is framed by beautiful Italian artworks and an overall soft 80s aesthetic. It reeks of nostalgia and a longing for the warmth of summers long ago. Even Elio’s colorful swim trunks, which he wears in almost every scene, are a reminder of the playfulness and the innocence that he begins to leave behind as the summer goes on. Everything feels very windswept and bright, and nature plays a huge role in the scenes.

Sounds kind of nice, right? Like a coming of age story?

For the most part, it is. However, the age gap is honestly hard to get behind, even though the age of consent in Italy is 14 years old and Elio is the one who pursues Oliver. Cultural differences are important to recognize, but honestly, they could have been avoided had Elio been just a few years older in the first place. It also doesn’t help that Chalamet looks so young and it’s hard to believe that Hammer is portraying someone in their mid-twenties. They also have significantly different body types that read so much into the difference between a young boy and a man that at times it’s hard to suspend any disbelief about age.

The other big problem with this movie is that for every scene that is beautiful and charming, there is a scene that is either unnecessarily long or ridiculously uncomfortable. To be fair, many of these scenes are directly from the source material, like the scene where Elio is fantasizing about Oliver and literally masturbates into a peach. For someone who has never read the book, it is hard to understand why they call each other by their own names. Is that something to level the playing field? Is it a respect thing? Or a kink? Maybe.

There are also some scenes that are shot with effects that don’t match the tonal quality of the movie at all, like the dream sequence near the end, where the dream is in an inverted neon orange effect. Even some of the music isn’t as tear-jerking as it should be, especially near the end of the film.

Even though the tone sometimes got lost in some of the effects and the abrupt piano music cues, there are still a lot of positive things about the film. Thanks to the fantastic acting, the relationship is, for the most part, believable, passionate and interesting. The family dynamic is hilarious, and Elio’s father has some of the most heartbreaking and beautiful lines near the end of the film.

We can always use more movies with LGBT+ protagonists. Representation is more important than ever. We just need more that don’t end in some sort of tragedy.

Watch the trailer here:

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