AFI FEST 2017: ‘Call Me By Your Name’ ✮✮✮

There are those who choose to be so deeply in the closet that they can’t even give their feelings or lover a name and “Call Me By Your Name” is about one such summer fling that could have been something more.

In this James Ivory script, there’s nothing creepy this coming-of-age romance set somewhere in Northern Italy although the characters acknowledge the questionable wisdom of the relationship. Based on a novel by André Aciman, the story takes place in 1987. Every summer,  Elio Perlman’s art historian father, Lyle Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), with his wife Annella (Amira Casar), hosts a doctoral student for six weeks at their family home in Northern Italy. This particular summer, the 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) gives up his room to the handsome Oliver (Armie Hammer) who charms both the men and the women of family and town.

Elio, at 17, is obsessed with both music and sex. During this summer, he will have sex with a girl and Oliver as well as a fruit. Yet it will be Oliver who truly breaks his heart. While the book is about Elio looking back 20 years later when he is in his late thirties, the movie concludes soon after that summer. While Elio believes his parents are too dense to realize what is happening, he learns they knew more than he realized.

In the 1980s, not everyone was ready to come out of the closet and embrace their true desires and their true loves. Those that did were not always fully accepted as shown in this movie. We only later can see them as truly brave. The title comes from a request that Oliver makes because for him, their love was one that does not dare speak its name.

Ivory, at 89, was long-term life partners with Ismail Merchant and together, they formed the award-winning Merchant Ivory Productions. They remained together for 44 years, until Merchant’s death. According to reports, Ivory’s script was reworked by director Luca Guadagnino, who cut down both the nudity and the costs.  Guadagnino sensitively creates an environment of small town friendliness, where one man brightens an already cozy town.  Music dominates this movie, giving us another voice for Elio while also reflecting the time and education of all the characters as well as Elio’s interests. The soundtrack includes three songs by Sufjan Stevens: “Visions of Gideon,” “Futile Devices,” and “Mysteries of Love.”

The film has a leisurely pace, just like a long, slowly savored summer vacation. This movie will make you want to summer in Northern Italy, cycling around a small friendly town and eat many beautiful meals al fresco.

“Call Me By Your Name” was the Friday, 10 November 2017, gala movie at AFI FEST 2017. “Call Me By Your Name” won the Breakthrough Award for Chalamet at the Hollywood Film Awards and the People’s Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It opens in the US on 24 November 2017.

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