Call Me by Your Name, B+
Rated R, 132 minutes
"Call Me by Your Name" is one of the year's most sensual movies, as an older teenage finds love with an older graduate student. Beautifully executed and performed, this coming of age story is often slow-moving and presents a rose-colored viewpoint, but it's also richly satisfying.
It's the summer of 1983, and precocious 17-year-old Elio Perlman ("Lady Bird's" Timothee Chalmet, excellent) is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver ("The Man from U.N.C.L.E's" Armie Hammer in a brave turn), a handsome doctoral student who's working as an intern for Elio's father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Amid the sun-drenched splendor of their surroundings, Elio and Oliver discover the heady beauty of awakening desire over the course of a summer that will alter their lives forever.
The moving, superbly-acted romantic drama "Call Me by Your Name" has a unique international flavor to it. It's directed by Italian director Luca Guadagnino ("A Bigger Splash"), written by American James Ivory of such classics as "The Remains of the Day" and "Howard's End" and based on Egyptian author Andre Aciman's novel of the same name, featuring an eclectic, mostly American cast, including leads Chalamet (who's half French) and "The Social Network's" Hammer, in his best role to date.
Part coming-of-age, part sexual exploration and part genuine romance drama, "Call Me by Your Name" succeeds due to a couple of things. First, director Guadagnino isn't in a big rush: lets the story slowly unfold, at times too slowly, especially in the first act, but once the relationship evolves, it makes some powerful statements on love and the connections we have others.
Second, its story could've easily been far more tawdry and explicit; instead, it brims with an obvious yet subtle sensuality that makes its narrative much more palpable (the relationship isn't consummated until well into the second act). It helps having two strong performances from both the appealing leads, newcomer Chalamet as the teenager exploring his sexuality, and often unsure of himself, as well as Hammer, in a bold performance as the older graduate student who develops feelings for his colleagues' son.
Chalamet and Hammer are strongly supported by Amira Casar as his loving mom, and the ubiquitous Stuhlbarg (he's had a terrific year with this, "The Post" and "The Shape of Water") as his wise, supportive father. It's Stuhlbarg who delivers the most touching monologue at the end, where he strongly encourages his son to pursue real love, however that looks, because it doesn't last forever. As well, the lush Italian scenery, handsomely photographed by Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, adds considerable subtext to the film, providing a nice backdrop to Elio and Oliver's romance.
Though "Call Me by Your Name" is a worthy and richly satisfying character-driven tale, its rose-colored look at romance, particularly with same-sex relationships, borders on the unrealistic, particularly with Hammer's character, who appears to have walked out of a J. Crew catalog and into the arms of our young lead.
"Call Me by Your Name" is a well-rounded, fulfilling and bittersweet look at finding real love and searching for a sexual identity. It's already getting some awards buzz, and it wouldn't surprise to see more, particularly for Chalamet, Hammer and Stuhlbarg, not to mention its strong directing, writing and gorgeous cinematography.