BY CEARA NAVARRO
Director Luca Guadagino’s “Call Me by Your Name” wants to be an intelligent and heartbreakingly devastating drama about two young men falling in love, but what it is, is a pretentious two-hour-long collection of events that in the end seems meaningless.
“Call Me by Your Name” is about 17-year-old Elio Perlman’s (Timothée Chalamet) coming of age when he meets his father’s intern, a 24-year-old American grad student named Oliver (Armie Hammer), who will be staying at their northern Italian home. Elio is almost immediately intrigued by Oliver, whether it’s the Star of David around his neck or adventurous behavior he exhibits. Oliver and Elio eventually do engage in a fleeting summer romance, despite initial protests from the grad student.
The movie has some pleasant things about it. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. Who wouldn’t fall in love when you’re living in a stylish, bohemian home in lush Crema, Italy? Each scene is full of life with greenery that is always complimented by the vivid reds, blues and yellows the characters are wearing.
The acting should not go without praise either. The leads do the best with what they’re given to convince us they are in love. They are successful, but the plot does little to explain why they fall in love besides a mutual attraction. They do have conversations about books, but those seem to go nowhere. Elio and Oliver’s best moments are when they’re fumbling over each other messily, yet cautiously; trying desperately to be careful they might break the other.
The film desperately wants us to be invested in Elio and Oliver’s relationship. It has them flirt and tease each other in a very natural and believable manner. It is very cute and sensual when they have these sweet moments but the biggest issue is that their relationship seems very surface level. The two never have any meaningful conversations about their futures, where they want their romance to go or their thoughts on anything once they start being intimate together.
This movie is about a summer tryst that is being held up as a great romantic tale. When Elio and Oliver are ultimately forced apart, because Oliver must return the United States, the film wants this to be devastating to the audience though its does nothing to earn it.
There is one particular scene that is handled particularly poorly; Mr. Perlman (Michael Stulhberg) speaks to a forlorn Elio about his awareness of his affair with Oliver. It seems like this scene was meant for Mr. Perlman to deliver the film’s moral, but the main takeaway is muddied.
In his monologue, Mr. Perlman makes three distinguishable points: one, that Elio and Oliver both taught each other something while they were together; two, that Elio had experienced something sincere with Oliver and he shouldn’t try to silence the emotions he feel as it would make their relationship for naught, and three, heartbreak shouldn’t discourage him from loving again while he is young. With the three differing main takeaways you could have, what the audience is meant to learn is lost in the weird way the script decided to convey this. Even Elio seems to not have drunk any of that in, as his reply to his father’s sage advice is simply, “does Mom know?”
In short, “Call Me by Your Name” is very disappointing. A lot of the film time is filled with moments that have almost no dialogue and no worth to “plot.” It’s a movie where its characters do things, because they just do.
This is one in a series of reviews The Pioneer Times is running of movies nominated for the 2018 Best Picture Academy Award. The awards are scheduled for March 4.