Directed by Luca Guadagnino “Call Me By Your Name” is definitely a gay movie, but it is certainly more than that. A coming of age tale about love and heartbreak, it is a very universal story that all viewers can relate to.
It is 1983. Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is a 17-year-old boy who lives in northern Italy with his family. His father’s research assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer), visits from the United States and the two begin a relationship in secret. As Elio’s sexuality burgeons, the weight of love bears down on him and how he views himself and his world changes.
The emotional journey of Elio keeps the story timeless. As he goes from naive young man to flirty adolescent to passionate lover to heartbroken adult, we see through him our own stories of love. Even though its plot is about two gay men needing to keep their relationship a secret in a world that doesn’t accept them, it is really a story of learning about love and the joy and pain that entails and that makes it pertinent to every viewer.
The film is anchored by its two standout leads, Chalamet and Hammer. They have incredible chemistry together and each give a powerful performance. The role of Elio’s father played by Michael Stuhlbarg and his off-again, on-again girlfriend played by Esther Garrel are also strong, but it is the leads who give the film its emotional heft and memorability.
The film utilizes a slow buildup to its emotional beats, not focusing on big, dramatic moments but on small gestures. Oliver massages Elio’s back during a game of volleyball. Elio takes Oliver to his secret spot where he reads books for hours on end. Elio has trouble dancing with his girlfriend in front of Oliver. What might at first be considered unnecessary filler are actually important character beats that let you into the minds of Elio and Oliver. Through these small actions, we can see their struggles, their desires and the undercurrents of emotions that flow within them.
“Call Me By Your Name” is not a big flashy drama, but it is a moving portrait of forbidden love and growing up. Featuring some of the best acting of the year, it is a subtle story focused on complex themes.