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“Call Me by Your Name” explores first love

Updated: Apr 4, 2018


Elio (Timotheé Chalamet) falls for grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer) during the summer 0f 1983. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)


Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD copy; 2017; R for sexual content, nudity and some profanity; streamlining via Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube

Best extra: “In Conversation” interview with cast members and director

OSCAR’S Best Picture nominee “Call Me By Your Name” has been almost unanimously adored by critics.

This beautiful-to-behold, coming-of-age gay love story is based on André Acino’s 2007 novel. Set during an idyllic summer in the gorgeous northern Italian countryside, it was directed by Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love”; “A Bigger Splash”), and adapted by James Ivory of Merchant/Ivory fame.

The year is 1983 and an American classics professor (the ubiquitous Michael Stuhlbarg), his Italian wife (English actress Amara Casar), and Elio (Timotheé Chalamet), their exceptional and precocious 17-year-old son (who looks like he’s 14), live in a fabulous 16th century villa. The decorator magazine-perfect house comes complete with stone fountain swimming pool, bounteous orchards, and quiet, faithful servants.

Each year, the professor hosts a grad student to help with his research. Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, whose character is meant to be in his 20s, but looks more like 30, is the summer holiday’s brilliant young man. He arrives as the film begins. In short order, Oliver finds a girlfriend, is accepted by a group of rough-looking locals into a regular poker game, and becomes the object of Elio’s obsession.

Elio helps his father an American classics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) during an archaeological discovery in Northern Italy.

Despite Elio’s also having a girlfriend (Esther Garrel) – and losing his virginity with her – he lets Oliver know he wants more than friendship with him. It doesn’t take very much convincing. And so, with the apparent knowledge – and even encouragement – of his parents, the two fantastically photogenic young men begin a sexual liaison which, naturally, must end when the summer does.

There are many lovely, heartfelt moments in “Call Me By Your Name,” but just as many that don’t ring true, especially the much-lauded soliloquy delivered by Stuhlbarg toward the film’s end. In it, he advises his son to experience the brief love affair as deeply as possible. He also inexplicably confesses to the boy that he was never lucky enough to have “had what you had.” Considering that the audience never witnesses Elio sharing anything about what he’s doing or feeling with his parents, the lecture makes little sense and seems more like an excuse to show Stuhlbarg’s oratory chops than anything else.

Movie Trailer

This Sony Pictures Classic Blu-ray looks splendid and benefits from having been shot on 35mm film. The Italian landscapes and interiors are painterly, and the details, especially close-ups of the exquisite young men’s faces and bodies, are rendered flawlessly, with skin tones always natural. The HD audio is also excellent, offering well-balanced sound effects, and a variety of musical flourishes.

Extras include a making-of documentary; a music video for “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens; and a feature commentary love-fest by Stuhlbarg and Chalamet. Most interesting is the on-stage interview held at a New York Magazine screening of the film. Guadagnino talks about shooting the story in sequence, mostly on location in his hometown of Crema, near Lake Garda in northern Italy.

Chalamet, who hails from a New York “theater family,” marvels at the audio book version of the novel, narrated by Hammer. Hammer, who says he loved Acimen’s book, comments on the unusual perspective he got by doing it – living on “one, and then the other side, of the coin,” since the book is dictated in first person by Elio. Hammer also reflected on the “daunting” nature of his role in which he had “nothing to hide behind,” as well as the film’s theme of “emotional connection between two people.” He praises the accepting nature of the plot line, in which “no one paid for being gay.”

Chalamet praises Guadagnino for trusting him to experiment with his portrayal in different takes; and Guadagnino reflects on his casting process, noting one of the “great joys” of his work is “seeing how an ensemble evolves.”

- Peggy Earle



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