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Celebrated 'Call Me by Your Name' explores the pitfalls of first love

Call Me By Your Name (Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)

Call Me by Your Name
3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director:
Luca Guadagnino
Writer: James Ivory (screenplay), André Aciman (novel)
Starring: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rated: R for sexual content, nudity and some language

Synopsis: Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old young man, experiences the pains of first love when he falls for Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old graduate student working as his father’s research assistant.

Review: Since its debut at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, “Call Me by Your Name” has been touted by many as one of the best films of 2017. By the time that I saw the film in November the furor had grown to the point where it looked like the film was likely to be the frontrunner for Best Picture at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice award shows.

“Call Me by Your Name” is a coming-of-age story, a tale of sexual awakening and the pitfalls of youth. Set in 1983 against the Italian countryside, the film has the warm glow of old Hollywood thanks to the gorgeous cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”) with a cast that is as easy to look upon as the landscape that surrounds them. The script, adapted by James Ivory from André Aciman’s novel, is similarly lush.

Director Luca Guadagnino shows a certain amount of restraint, particularly when it comes to the sexual aspects of the film. Of course, where some see restraint others see a certain censorship to make the film more appealing to the masses.

I wasn’t particularly taken with “Call Me by Your Name,” which was something of a surprise for me. I was impressed by Timothée Chalamet’s performance (he also has a strong performance in “Lady Bird”) and the rest of the cast offers amicable turns.

But all that beauty didn’t amount to the transcendent moment that many others have had while watching the film. There is some depth and rawness that keeps the film from being superficial, but I wasn’t particularly invested in Elio. I felt more for Esther Garrel’s character, Marzia, who like Elio is forced into facing the bitter aftertaste of love.

I can only guess that my issue is with Guadagnino’s storytelling because I was equally unmoved by both of his previous efforts, “I Am Love” and “A Bigger Splash.” I prefer “Call Me by Your Name” to those films, but just so. I won’t be upset if the film takes home numerous Oscars, I'll save those emotions for "Downsizing" (should it actually be nominated).

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