This was originally reviewed on 16/02/17 as part of the Berlinale.
While making comparisons is nearly always reductive, Call Me by Your Name feels like Brokeback Mountain via Richard Linklater – which hopefully sounds like a compliment, because it is meant as a huge one. It takes all the important cogs and springs of these ventures and repackages them into something transcendant: the sun-drenched European location, tanned with nostalgia; the rapid spitfire of intellectual conversation; the molten, aching, barely repressed tension of a blossoming same-sex romance; and, of course, a summer that was.
Summer is when things catch fire. Any director worth his chair knows that. Jesse met Celine in June; Curt, Steve, John, and The Toad spent the last day of their final high-school summer vacation cruising a Californian strip; and the Stand By Me gang became young men (through the discovery of a dead body).
There is something about the season and, for Timothée Chalamet’s Elio, a precocious but affable musical prodigy, this feeling is encapsulated by his father’s latest intern, Oliver. Oliver is arrogant but magnetic, a tightrope deftly trodden by the as-always terrific Armie Hammer, and he draws Elio in with the same honey reserved for the audience.
Luca Guadagnino fuses the pair, then stands back to capture the ensuing sparks as they whizz and twinkle like stars. He gathers the story as it tumbles out of Italy in the 1980s, only heightening the guilty pleasure of trawling a young man’s guarded memories.
The central romance is kindled by a glowing screenplay. Elio and Oliver climb from sharing a bathroom to bicycle rides to the vacant spaces in each other’s beds. Their connection flickers from a curious attraction, ignites through snatched episodes of sensual sex, and grows into love – one that simultaneously warms, then chops at, the throat and heart upon its sudden departure.
CAST: Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois
DIRECTOR: Luca Guadagnino
WRITERS: James Ivory, Luca Guadagnino, Walter Fasano (screenplay), André Aciman (novel)
SYNOPSIS: Call Me by Your Name depicts a romance between a 17-year-old boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the beautiful Italian Riviera.