Call Me By Your Name Movie Review
Already raking in plenty of critical acclamations and awards, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is one of the handful of favorites to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. The film’s young star, Timothée Chalamet delivers one of the best break-out performances of the year, while Armie Hammer gives one of the best performances of his career. Based on the novel by André Aciman, director Luca Guadagino, screenwriter James Ivory, and cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom put together a well-constructed, beautiful looking film that most critics have been praising as a love story. But might I present a different (probably unpopular) perspective. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is about the foolish nature of accepting and succumbing to young lust.
Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is a 17-year-old boy who spends his summer days in Northern Italy at his family’s 17th century villa. Elio is an artistic soul who transcibes music and occasionally lounging around with a few friends. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is a 24-year-old American graduate student working on his doctorate as a summer intern for Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Oliver is a hot shot of sorts who is smart, athletic, and adored by all. Between the girls they might be dating or pretending to like, the two strike up a secretly intimate relationship.
I’ve read a lot of descriptive synopsis of the film along with praising reviews claiming the film to be a love story. I’m not sure I understand this thought process. I’m disappointed when people are mistaking love with lust. Yes, scrawny, quietly passionate 17-year-old Elio definitely believes this to be his first love, but make no mistake an adult can see it’s just a childish infatuation, the same way one might say they love a certain celebrity that they have never met. Statue-esqe 24-year-old Oliver is on a different playing field. There is nothing in the film that tells me he isn’t doing what he is doing with Elio with other young ladies. In fact, I would argue the film tells us he most definitely is and confirming as much in the final moments with the information he gives in a phone call. Oliver is not intentionally out to hurt anyone, but he puts his own joy of being desired above all else.
There is a key moment where Elio’s father speaks to Elio quite candidly about finding love. At first glance, it appears sweet and moving about accepting his son and wanting happiness for him. However, this is the moment that frightens me the most. He seems to be encouraging an unhealthy relationship that we should believe otherwise just because the father perceives a chemistry between them. To be clear, it has nothing to do with Elio being bisexual. Elio is still a 17-year-old boy, who has just had a relationship with a 24-year-old man. I’m purposely repeating the age, not because of the 7-year-difference, but because of the time in their life in which the relationship is sparked. Would we view the relationship differently if Elio was female? I think we would. Straight or gay this relationship is inappropriate due to the maturity level and moreso unhealthy due to the careless nature of Oliver. It saddens me that a father would be okay with that type of relationship happening under his roof and not at all concerned by the damage it might bring to his son. It’s one thing to let your children make their own mistakes and it’s an entirely different one to ignore or encourage it.
It might be important to note that I am a straight white male, married with two children, so that may or may not hinder your view of my opinion. But I mean this in the most earnest, supportive, and what I believe to be objective way possible. If the LGBTQ community desire is to be treated equally with understanding then CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is hindering that movement by encouraging a relationship that would be considered under the age of consent in certain places. Of course everyone should be treated as individuals and not identified by lumping them into a certain group and in that sense the film is an adequate story about the foolish nature of young lust.
I like CALL ME BY YOUR NAME from a simple story telling standpoint, even if I didn’t care for the story itself. The film captures place and time effortlessly. There’s a lazy, no responsibility mood that flows through the view point from a teenager’s life during that strange time in our lives where we are not quite a child but still living with our parents. That edge is mostly in the minds eye and young love or infatuation due to physical attraction usually heightens the idea that one might feel like an adult but is usually a glaring point of being far more childish than one should be at that age. The acting is nothing short of stellar, especially from Timothée Chalamet who displays a surprisingly subtle emotional range that is rarely seen. Furthermore, the character development through pacing and movement naturally helps the audience have a desire to see where the story might be going. But pretending CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is a beautiful love story is simply irresponsible.