This film is on everyone’s top ten list and has a 98% Rotten Tomatoes critics rating, but Robin and I didn’t “get it.” As far as we’re concerned, it’s an OTBR. I wouldn’t even bother to see it on the BS, unless you want to see all the “Best Picture” AW nominated movies. (This will surely be one of them, especially since I don’t get to vote!)
The movie takes place in the summer of 1983, on a beautiful estate in Northern Italy. Spending their summer vacation there are Lyle and Annella Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) and their 17-year-old son, Elio (Timothee Chalamet). Lyle is a prominent Professor of Greco-Roman culture. Annella inherited this fabulous estate, which has a large house surrounded by acres of land with fruit trees. Elio is on the verge of boredom. All there is to do is read, play and listen to music, and ride a bike. The family is Jewish, although this doesn’t appear to have any relevance to the plot. The cinematography (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom) of the Northern Italian countryside is beautiful and sensuous, and this is my favorite aspect of the film.
Arriving to start an Internship with Professor Perlman is the extraordinarily-handsome Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio and a pretty young woman about his age, Marzia (Esther Garrel), seem to have a mutual romantic interest in each other when Oliver arrives. At first, Elio doesn’t seem to like Oliver much, but soon they start hanging out. A special friendship develops, and, eventually, they become lovers. (The homosexual scenes are fairly graphic.)
Quite frankly, if what occurred between these two people was a heterosexual relationship, I don’t think most people would find it very interesting. Despite their sexual attraction for each other, I didn’t find their relationship to have much depth. The movie was extremely slow paced and I found myself thinking, “let’s get to the inevitable already!” Elio is only 17 and uncertain about his sexuality, while Oliver is about 10 years older, so that aspect of the film also made me uncomfortable.
Near the end of the movie is a touching and well-written scene between Elio and Lyle, but one great scene and beautiful cinematography wasn’t enough for me. I also am clueless about the title. In one of the sexual scenes, Oliver asks Elio to call him “Elio,” and he will call Elio “Oliver.” If this is supposed to have some profound significance, it’s too obscure for me.
If you “Call Me By Your Name” I probably won’t answer!