The elegant Lombardian villa in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name was made for romance. Who could fail to fall in love in such a place, with its sumptuous decoration, delicious meals (with fish from the nearby river!), and wonderfully landscaped grounds? And yet despite all that there’s something missing this summer for 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), who’s vacationing with his mother (Amira Casar) and father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a university classics professor.
The missing ingredient, of course, is sex. Elio tries to get something going with one of the girls in town (Esther Garrel), but never quite connects. Then, to the rescue comes a handsome young stranger named Oliver (Armie Hammer), a grad student interning with Elio’s father. Boing. The kid falls hard for the visiting scholar, and events tumble out from there.
As brought to the screen by Italian director Guadagnino (I Am Love) with a screenplay adapted by James Ivory of Merchant Ivory fame, from a novel by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name is a fairly standard-brand gay romance, light on the explicit sex but fully furnished with art-house-friendly attitudes and production values. What distinguish it from the competition are the dialogue and the acting.
The tall and perpetually aristocratic Hammer embroiders on his preppy characters from The Social Network and Nocturnal Animals — Oliver’s aloof amiability gives Elio the boner of his young life. However, wildly popular character actor Stuhlbarg (The Shape of Water, The Post, Arrival, Trumbo, etc.) provides the film’s most lasting moment with his fatherly speech to the lovesick Elio: “Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot.”
Call Me by Your Name
Directed by Luca Guadagnino. With Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet. Opening Friday.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story erroneously stated that the professor’s villa was a timeshare; in fact, his wife inherited the property. This version has omitted the error.