Sunday, February 4, 2018

Movie Review: Call Me by Your Name

The intimate love story coming-of-age tale explores a young man's blossoming sexual desire over a summer in Italy with his family. Elio (Timothée Chalamet) spends his days transcribing music, reading, flirting with girls, and biking as his father Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) researches artifacts pulled from the sea. A new student arrives to help Elio's father. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is a confident man with plenty of American mannerisms that put off Elio at first. There is tension as Elio gives up his room to stay in the room next door and the two men share a bathroom. Oliver works with Perlman but Elio volunteers to take him into town and show him around. Oliver is introduced to Elio's friends but he takes a particular interest in Elio showing it by massaging his shoulder but Elio pulls away.

Oliver flirts with another woman on the dance floor and Elio watches as jealously flashes across his eyes. Elio has a fling with a girl as well. Marzia (Esther Garrel) meets Elio at night as they flirt and make love. Marzia is worried that Elio will hurt her and asks him to go slowly but it quickly moves towards sex. Elio and Oliver start to hang out together and though they never speak about it, their attraction grows. The film highlights the gorgeous setting especially when Elio asks to come along with Oliver and his father to the seaside where they are pulling up artifacts. Oliver and Elio declare a truce as Oliver sense there has been some disagreement between them.

Elio tells Oliver about his sexual exploits with Marzia but Oliver does not react in a way that Elio expects. His attraction for his father's student grows as he sneaks into Oliver's room and smells his bathing suit. He thinks about Oliver when masturbating and confesses his love to Oliver who tells him that they can't have a relationship as this is the 80s and thinking about this kind of thing has not progressed the little bit that it has in the last few decades. Elio and Oliver go swimming and while drying out in the sun, Elio kisses Oliver who pushes him away and tells him they can't do this even as Elio touches him sexually. This rejection pushes Elio away and they do not speak for several days until Elio writes Oliver a note. Oliver responds asking him to meet him at midnight. 

That night, the two men make love with each other and work to keep their relationship a secret from the prying maid and Elio's parents. They continue to meet in secret and Elio uses a peach to masturbate about Oliver who laughs about it embarrassing Elio. Marzia tries to see Elio who has been avoiding him but Elio is no longer interested breaking her heart. Elio's parents are aware of the relationship and send the two men away on a trip together where they flirt and have sex though they are both overcome with the grief that their relationship is ending. Oliver leaves back to America as Elio is grief-stricken. His father tells him about his own secret relationship and encourages him to not dull the pain but embrace it because it is a part of love. Months later, Oliver calls Elio and tells him about his engagement to a woman. Elio stars into the fire and cries as the credits roll.

Call Me by Your Name was really boring. While the Italian countryside is gorgeous and I understand how many people found the love story moving, I wasn't very fond of the characters and found the plot to move too slow. The film has lots of subtle scenes of flirtation but it piles up and drags for so long that I couldn't ever get into the story or much care about the growing relationship. While it received lots of acclaim, I think it was mostly about the lack of this sort of representation and not so much how entertaining this film actually is for an audience. I appreciate Chalamet's and Hammer's performances but Stuhlbarg's speech at the end that really stole the show.  

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