By Evan Lambert
Show of hands: Who here has blocked out their teen years? Oh wow, that’s a lot — OK, put ’em down put ’em down — KAREN, PUT YOUR GODDAMN HAND DOWN YOU MISSED IT … OK thank you. Well, I’m going to need you to unblock those years now. I don’t care what you do to get in your teenage mindset — Slap on a mouthguard and stage a public meltdown if you have to — but please remember it all. Remember the little tragedies, and the real tragedies. Remember the fear and isolation. Remember the great loves, and the great losses, and the biggest dreams. Remember it all, because you lived it — and that’s why you’re such a giant fucking mess.
That is, ultimately, the lesson of Call Me By Your Name.
Call Me By Your Name seems, at first, to be as carefree as an actual vacation to Italy. It’s all lazy, dreamy camera movements and scenes of luxury: a fertile, comfy playground for its protagonist Elio (Timothee Chalamet). But Elio isn’t as carefree as he seems, and this is not a typical family summer in late ’80s Italy. Elio, you see, is a horny teenager in a land before porn-filled iPhones. He’s a slave to whim and desire, and he’s fraught with so much hyper-intelligent anxiety that it’s nearly impossible for him to realize it. And then, sigh, he falls for Oliver (Armie Hammer).
OK, another show of hands — NOT YOU, KAREN, JUST STOP KAREN — Who here has wanted to sleep with Armie Hammer? Oh wow, so literally all of you. That’s what I thought. Well, how many of you wish you could have done that when you were 17? Again, literally all of you. This kid, this Elio Perlman kid, is the baddest bitch. He sleeps with Armie Hammer — ok, sorry, a character played by Armie Hammer — when he’s 17 freaking years old. Just, like, give up now, because you’re literally never going to be as cool as Elio.
Elio’s initial confusion and tumult is conveyed through a roiling, fretful piano score and Chalamet’s nimble, swoony performance — but this soon melts into heart-bursting passion. Call Me By Your Name so easily places you in the mind of Elio that your own face will redden and your own pulse will quicken every time Elio watches Armie/Oliver from just out of frame. Then again, this may also be because Armie Hammer never wears pants in this movie and his toned legs are making you feel some kind of way. Seriously, does Armie Hammer ever wear pants in this movie? It’s possible that he wore pants once and I just didn’t recognize him without the legs.
So anyway, once Elio processes his early feelings about Armie Hammer — YES KAREN I KNOW HIS NAME IS OLIVER, KAREN YOU’RE FIRED — Call Me By Your Name becomes a world of poetry and intensity. It’s also, more powerfully, a coming-of-age tale about guilt, denial, loss, and acceptance. And while it stalls a bit in the final act, it saves itself with a beautiful scene in which Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) extolls the necessity of embracing emotions — even the bad kinds. Thus, through Elio’s excruciatingly beautiful trials, we’re reminded that big, scary love can be essential to your identity — as long as you never forget you had it.
Flagrantly Rated: **** (4 out of 5 Stars)