Set “somewhere in Northern Italy” in 1983, Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is a coming-of-age story about a seventeen year old named Elio Perlman. Coming from a highly educated family, Elio is more mature than your average “kid” that age. He composes his own music, is fluent in multiple languages, and reads deep books such as James Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, for pleasure. (I had to read that book my senior year of high school for AP English, and couldn’t even understand the CliffsNotes.)
Elio’s family summers in Italy each year (wealthy people are allowed to use seasons as verbs). His father, an archaeology professor, spends each summer working from home at the family’s villa, choosing a graduate student to assist him for the duration of the family’s stay. When Oliver, a tall, handsome American arrives to work alongside Elio’s father, he doesn’t just end up helping the professor; he awakens new sexual feelings in Elio, who, up until this point, seemed confident that he had life figured out.
Timothée Chalamet stars as Elio while Armie Hammer plays Oliver. Chalamet’s physique stands in stark contrast to Hammer’s. The former is scrawny without any definition while the latter has the body of a Greek god, muscular and strong. As the unlikely pair begin their unorthodox courtship, Elio is boyish, throwing playful punches Oliver’s way, while Oliver is brooding, hesitant to start anything with Elio for obvious reasons, including that he is working for Elio’s father and living with Elio’s family.
As the sexual tension between Elio and Oliver continued to mount, some of the people in the audience were definitely displeased by what they were witnessing on the big screen. Of the seventeen people in the audience, including myself, two people, who weren’t seated together, actually got up and left the theater, never returning. I’ve reviewed over eighty films, and I must say that this was a first.
Without having an opportunity to talk with the two people who left, I can only assume that some of the intimate scenes, which delved into Elio and Oliver’s same sex relationship, must have made them uncomfortable because both people left when oral gratification was alluded to with glimpses of one character down on his knees in front of the other one who was standing.
As for myself, it wasn’t the fact that Elio and Oliver were both males that caused me to bristle; it instead was the idea that Elio was so much younger than Oliver that bothered me. Oliver, whose age was never stated, was likely in his thirties, a grown man, while Elio was still a minor. It felt icky that Oliver would succumb to Elio’s longing glances, that they were in different leagues.
Two friends attended the film with me, and they both agreed that their discomfort stemmed from the age difference. My first friend shared, “I don’t know what to say! It was crazy! It was the seventeen year old versus the man. I felt like Oliver was taking advantage of Elio’s boyhood. By the way, I will never eat a peach again!”
Her husband, when asked whether he would recommend it, didn’t hesitate when he answered, “Not a chance! It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.” He made an important observation that he would have been just as disturbed if it had been a man in his thirties with a seventeen year old girl.
When there are movies I don’t care for, I do try to at least offer some positive attributes. My favorite part of the film, besides the gorgeous scenery and nod to Italian culture, was a beautiful scene between Elio and his father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. Mr. Perlman’s compassion and respect for his son didn’t necessarily bring me to tears, but his words of wisdom were picture perfect, and could apply to so many of us.
And, as far as my friend’s observation about the peach is concerned, I’m totally with her! Without giving it away, let’s just say that the phenomenal acting couldn’t make up for all the “juicy” sex scenes.
Movie times: click here
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Actors: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg
Running Time: 2 hours 12 minutes
Rating: Rated R for sexual content, nudity and some language