Movie #347 2020: Call Me By Your Name (2017)

For my own sanity, I’ve decided to step away from Christmas for at least a few films. It’s only right. Look out for number 1, etc.

Call Me By Your Name is an absolute phenomenon. Not only did it engage critics, but it wowed your general avid movie watcher – including those who usually stick to blockbusters. I don’t know why I’d not seen it before now. Perhaps my interest just wasn’t as peaked as it was with others. It stars Timothée Chalamet in his breakthrough role as young Elio; an Italian-American living in Italy. Set in the 1980s, the film centres on Elio’s meeting with an older man (Armie Hammer) whom has recently been hired by his father to assistant in his research. Quickly, Elio and the new employee become romantically involved, and this is the coming-of-age story of how it all comes about, and indeed, how it ends.

This past week I’ve watched CarolHappiest Season (twice), and now this. I’m in the mood for gays, it seems. Interesting, as I usually avoid LGBTQ+ themed movies like the plague. Mainly because they’re usually low-budget, technically terrible duds. Yet we’re on a streak with pretty decent movies with this theme, so let’s see whether or not the high quality continues with this one.

Setting this movie in Italy and the blending of two languages made it infinitely more interesting to me. Many gorgeous shots of the countryside and little European restaurants absolutely fill the movie, making it hugely obvious why critics loved this. The use of negative space is glorious too, and – if nothing else – the cinematography alone is so masterful that it makes it worth the watch regardless of any misgivens it may have.

Whilst his performance is mature and something to behold, it’s baffling to me that seeing Chalamet’s weedy little body in Call Me By Your Name is what made girls (and boys) decide that he was dreamy, yet here we are. He is, however, supremely talented and won me over with his portrayal of Laurie in Little Women. Watching him play various instruments and speak two languages is very impressive and he proves himself as the “young actor to watch” as many have already claimed with this performance. 

I like to think of this as more of a coming-of-age/sexual awakening film than a romance. Because let’s face it, it’s really quite creepy otherwise. For instance, why do Elio’s parents never express a single ounce of concern that this man is absolutely far too old for him? ”Age shouldn’t matter” is obviously the counter-argument to this, but Elio looks no older than 16 here, whilst Hammer’s Oliver is quite clearly at least 30. It’s all just a little bit baffling to watch. (For the record, I understand that Chalamet himself was over 18 when this was filmed. All I’m asking is why there was never even a mention of the age difference, or some clarification of how old Elio was supposed to be.)

This film has many things to love technically and visually, but I could not have been more disinterested with some of the story itself, I’m afraid. In that respect, it’s kind of similar to Carol: nice to look at, “meh” in plot. Once again, the LGBTQ+ community has been forced to endure a snoozefest of a story. Its only saving grace is that decent coming-of-age LGBTQ+ stories are hard to come by, so at least it has that going for it.

Don’t forget that Armie Hammer is about as interesting as a tea towel, so casting him as a catalyst for curiosity seems like a really weird choice. On the contrary, Michael Stuhlbarg is a beacon of joy here. An unsung hero in many respects, Stuhlbarg’s performance is absolutely wonderful, and whilst Chalamet’s showing is the stand-out, he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does here.

On the whole, this is a very beautiful film. Does it need to be this long? Could there have been something more interesting for the plot to focus on? Indeed, I have some doubts regarding these questions. As a piece of film-making however, it’s simply lovely.

Call Me By Your Name is available to rent on Amazon for £2.49 in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

Costume & Set Design: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s