Shown at the 2017 New York Film Festival and now in commercial release, “Call Me By Your Name” is a sensitive story of a budding gay relationship told against a colorful summer background in northern Italy with visuals that further the film’s simmering but mostly understated sexuality. The accomplished film has been directed by Luca Guadagnino, with a screenplay by James Ivory, Guadagnino and Walter Fasano based on the novel by André Acimen.
The set-up involves Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), who invites a student to aid in his research, as he does every summer. This summer of 1983 the student is an American, Oliver (Arnie Hammer), a handsome young man to whom the professor's son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), is drawn.
At 17, Elio is unsure of his sexuality, although he has a girl as a friend. What the film gradually observes is the temptations that arise on the part of both Elio and Oliver, with the older Oliver a constant lure. In one sense, this is a coming of age story as well as a drama about the discovery of sexual identity.
This could easily have become a sleazy tale, but the complications that fascinatingly escalate step by step command serious attention. There is also an interesting element in the relationship between Elio and his father. As for Oliver, he must proceed with caution both because of the his position with Perlman and the inexperience of Elio.
The lead actors are excellent, and supporting roles are also well played. Above all, the direction by Guadagnino hits the right notes, as does the cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Reviewed November 24, 2017.