One of the films I most wanted to see this year (besides a couple of little sci-fi romps) was the independent film Call Me By Your Name. That was based solely on the orgasmic reviews of a certain blogger who had screened it multiple times when it first appeared on the festival circuit (and the fact that Armie Hammer—for whom I have very impure thoughts—was starring). Being in such limited distribution however, I really had very little hope that it would ever make it to the cinematic backwoods of Phoenix.
Well, it did arrive. Not in the first wave of releases or even the second, but nonetheless it did, and we got a chance to see it yesterday.
I liked it. Not on the same level that said blogger did, but enough that I might want to see it again on the big screen and definitely add it to my collection when it comes out on disc. I thought the first half of the film was plodding, and agreed with Ben that they seemed to go into way too much character development that did nothing to move the story forward. But the second half definitely took off and engaged me. Armie’s character comes off as more than a bit of an asshole—but it came from a place of uncertainty. Both Oliver (Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) are unsure of the intents and affection of the other, so they do a push me-pull you love-hate dance for the vast majority of the film until they finally realize the feelings each of them have for the other are mutual. It’s a situation we’ve all been in at one point or another, but it seemed to me the film spent way too much time building up that tension.
There has been some blowback regarding the relative ages of the two main characters. Elio is 17; Oliver is 26. It should be noted that the age of consent in Italy is 14. So calm down folks. Even though it may not sit with Puritanical America’s ideals (except of course, if it was a girl), Elio’s more than legal at 17 and Oliver is not a kiddie diddler.
Ironically that age difference is mirrored in the actors’ real lives. Chalamet is 23 and Hammer is 32.
Some random thoughts:
- I know exactly what it feels like to have a love like that.
- The stillness of the film was refreshing from the usual blow-everything-up fare at full volume of other modern cinema.
- I love how they alternated between English, Italian, and French.
- The wardrobe brought back many warm memories of the era. Especially the short shorts.
- Setting the story in the 1980s was genius. They didn’t have to worry about social media or posting selfies to Instagram and then feeling bad because everyone’s life was better than theirs.
- The languid pace of life expressed in the film and the sense of isolation from the rest of the world was wonderful, although it took some time to get back into that mindset and away from our current frenetic “always on” culture.
- Their goodbye at the train station and the subsequent followup six months later was heartbreaking, although the discussion Elio’s father had with his son after Oliver’s departure is one that I wish every father could have.
There is already talk of a sequel.