Luca Guadagnino’s latest, and best movie has been the subject of a stealth marketing campaign which revealed little of substance about the movie but somehow hyped expectations to a dizzy height. Thankfully for once they proved extremely accurate as this near-faultless film about an intergenerational summer love affair is a sublimely perfect coming-of-age story that is sure to resonate with everyone long after viewing it.
The film takes place in large rambling house in Lombardy which the Perlmans have spent their family vacations for years. The year is 1983 when summers without all the distractions that millennials now have, were lived outdoors and were so seemingly innocent.
Each year Professor Perleman (Michael Stuhlbarg) hires a a young doctoral student to spend the summer with the family and assist with his research. This year’s candidate is a bright blond 24 year old ‘Matinee Idol’ called Oliver (Armie Hammer) who quickly settles in with the family’s rather idyllic daily routine.
Everybody takes a shine to the newcomer except 17 year old Elio ( Timothée Chalamet) who is simply confused by his feelings. Not only does his bedroom adjoin Olivers but he is expected to show him around everywhere on bike rides to the town or taking him swimming.
Whilst Oliver obviously likes hanging out with Elio he also takes to disappearing on his own and hooking up with one of the girls that is a young friend of the family. Elio seems to feels almost obliged to see if this could work for him too, and he persuades Marzia (Esther Garrel) one of the girls he has known since childhood, to become his ‘girlfriend’ so that he can lose his virginity.
He boasts about this new development to Oliver just to get a reaction because despite the fact that they have been tantalizingly parading around in the shared bathroom naked, neither of these young man are sure if their attraction to each other is mutual. It isn’t until Elio carefully treads into previously unspoken terrority to sound Oliver out in one of the most moving scenes of the film, where the young man is the first one to make a move.
It is nearing the ending of the summer but as they two finally enter into this rather passionate and all-consuming affair there is no regret on either their parts that the relationship will only have a short time to run its full course. Elio’s mother (Amira Casar) who seemed to sense that her son was smitten with Oliver long before he did, suggests that the two spend the last weekend together when the Professor needs some research done in Florence.
After this is over and Oliver is back in New Jersey, it is Elio’s father who steps up the plate and gives his son a most compassionate speech about life and love that goes way beyond whatever one would expect from even the most liberal-minded parent.
With a impeccable script by the openly gay James Ivory (‘Maurice’ ‘Room With A View’) based on the novel by Andre Aciman, this life-changing summer and the loss of innocence is a beautiful awe-inspiring film. Guadagnino, also openly gay, never makes the men’s sexuality the central issue, as it is much more about the blossoming of first love knowing that it will probably set the tone for life that will follow, for Elio at least.
There is an amazing rather electrifying chemistry between Hammer and Chalamet, and whilst the older man puts a compelling performance, it is Chalamet that steals almost every single scene. He already has quite an extensive resume behind him for one so young, but it is his portrayal of sheer innocence as the disarmingly charming Elio that makes you appreciate that you are watching a remarkable talent that is destined for even bigger things in his future.
Call Me By Your Name is one of those excellent heart-warming movies that you will kick yourself if you are foolish enough to miss it. It will also make you appreciate how very versatile peaches are, and that you should always keep them in the bedroom.