Thursday, February 1, 2018

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review: An Evocative Coming- Of-Age And Romantic Story About Two Guys Who Get Attracted To Each Other One Lazy Summer In Italy

MEET ELIO (Timothee Chalamet, who’s also in the coming “Lady Bird” and “Hostiles”), a skinny 17 year old who’s definitely very knowledgeable and cultured for his age since he grew up surrounded by art and culture. When it comes to matters of the heart, though, he’s a total beginner. He is spending the summer of 1983 with his American dad (Michael Stuhlbarg), a Graeco-Roman art professor, and Italian mom (Amira Casar) in a small north Italian town.

He’s experimenting on sex with a French girlfriend, Marzia (Esther Garrel), and looks like they’re about to lose their virginity to each other. But then, an assistant of his dad comes along, Oliver (Armie Hammer), to help in an archaeological project, and a different side of his sexuality will soon be awakened.

At first, Elio is annoyed by Oliver, who’s in his mid-20s. He has to give up his own room to him and he dislikes it that he suddenly disappears to flirt with sexy Italian girls. But eventually, the two become aware of the burgeoning attraction between them and their love story dominates the film’s second act.

Based on the novel by Andre Aciman and scripted by James Ivory (“Maurice”, “The Remains of the Day”), the film is both a coming of age story as well as a romantic one, even if it doesn’t really go into where you think it just might.

The movie is well served by its lead actors who play characters that are both, as described by JC De Vera in “Dalawang Mrs. Reyes”, heteroflexible (it used to be called AC-DC.) Timothee(who’s a best actor nominee in the coming Oscars) is perfect as the boy whose perspective on what kind of sex he prefers is shaken up by the presence of Oliver.

He portrays Elio with the right mixture of intellectual maturity and emotional ineptitude, with his repressed feelings (he makes loves with an overripe peach in one scene) bursting like a dam into open passion eventually. The sex scenes are all handled with restraint.

Armie did flop action films like “Lone Ranger” and “Man from Uncle”, but we remember him best for his dual roles in “The Social Network”. He’s perfectly cast here as the overly confident Oliver, brash, looking like a Greek god whose oozing charisma puts both men and women under his spell.

He has great chemistry with Timothee. He may be the more experienced partner but he’s just as vulnerable as Timothee in not having any control as to where things might be going for both of them. Great support comes from Stuhlbarg as the very understanding and open-minded dad who gives his son comforting words of wisdom about the need to embrace life even if sometimes it brings you pain and heartache.

The film, currently nominated as Oscar best picture, is sensuously directed by Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino. We haven’t seen any of his past works before but he does well here in making “Call Me By Your Name” an unhurried and evocative look at moods and emotions, using the big screen like a canvas that imparts to the viewers the inner emotions of his characters who are living in the moment.

Beautifully scored with enchanting piano music, the film doesn’t rely much on dialogue. Viewers who prefer fast-paced films will find it cumbersome since it really takes its time before the two men realize that their feelings of attraction for each other are mutually reciprocated. “We wasted so many days!” as Elio says.

We don’t mind that the director takes a relaxed, langorous style requiring some patience in telling this bittersweet story of first love: passionate but ephemeral, setting aside the mind, allowing the heart to take over and throwing societal norms into the wind. It’s not about the deep tormenting love of a lifetime between two gay characters like in “Brokeback Mountain”, but more like a slow take on a summer fling that will certainly help Elio in molding future relationships.

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