By Dorian Grayson
One of the most important aspects of evaluating a film comes from a consideration of what it sets out to do. Part of this has to do with genre. An action film without any violence leaves unfulfilled expectations, but a romance film wouldn’t. If you go into “Call Me by Your Name” expecting a tragic gay romance, like “Brokeback Mountain,” you’re likely going to be disappointed. If you came for the relevant political statements of the noble lovers against those that seek to control them, you’re also likely going to be disappointed. “Call Me by Your Name” is so caught up in its main relationship that it commits wholeheartedly to the small things, taking its leisurely time working through the story.
It’s impossible to spoil the plot of “Call Me by Your Name,” because the plot doesn’t much matter. It doesn’t keep you tense with dense threads of intrigue, but you’ll be on the edge of your seat nonetheless as you witness how the film one-ups itself again and again.
Even the scenes that don’t draw attention to themselves have a way of commanding your attention as Armie Hammer, playing Oliver, and Timothée Chalamet, as Elio, each put everything up on screen. Chalamet’s Elio is an incredible creation, conveying the character’s artifice alongside his sincerity. In a near-wordless scene near the end of the movie, Elio and Oliver have a complete conversation through actions and expressions that leaves you amazed at how much the movie is capable of. All of this is before Michael Stuhlbarg, the actor playing Elio’s father, decides to steal the movie with a piercingly true monologue towards the end.
I’ve heard concern from some around the age difference between Elio and Oliver. Within the movie we find out that Elio is 17. Oliver’s age isn’t said, to my knowledge, but he is either an undergrad student close to graduating or a graduate student. While I won’t say someone is wrong for being put off by this, it didn’t bother me. Elio clearly understands what is happening between the two and consents.
“Call Me by Your Name” feels like opening an old wound to me. I’m sure it will feel the same for everyone else who has been in love. This movie’s truth is an achingly open, fresh love discovered and explored enchantingly on screen. It depicts beautiful people in a beautiful place and falling in beautiful love. This doesn’t mean it is dull, but it is much more enjoyable once you know that’s the story it’s telling. There were a couple points on my first watch that had me worried the movie would fall into the ‘Tragic Gay Romance,’ but that is not the case and the movie is much better for it.
If you’ve ever been in love, “Call Me by Your Name” knows exactly what you went through. With its powerfully understated script, cinematography that captures the essence of summer on camera, the movie casts a spell on you that carries until its intricate, intimate ending. Nothing like this is going to be in theatres for a long time afterward, so make sure to catch it while you can.