Movie review: Does 'Call Me By Your Name' live up to the awards hype?

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jan 31 2018 08:41 AM

This critically acclaimed film was first shown locally during the CinemaOne Originals 2017 film festival last November. All four screenings were sold out. Due to the demand, an extra screening was added which also got sold out.

Despite (or probably because of) its controversial topic, the Oscar-buzzed "Call Me By Your Name" promptly got a limited commercial run in selected Ayala Mall theaters, with an MTRCB rating of R-16.

It is the summer of 1983 somewhere in a quiet Eden of a town in Northern Italy. There lived a 17-year Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet), who loves music, languages and his friend Marzia (Esther Garrel) who fawns over him. One day, his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor of Greco-Roman archeology, welcomes an American graduate student, 24-year old Oliver (Armie Hammer), into their home as an intern for the summer. The tall, handsome, aloof Oliver wakens an unfamiliar yearning in young Elio. Will Elio be able to reveal his hidden desire to Oliver before the summer ends?

Working with a script adapted by James Ivory (yes, of those nostalgic Ivory-Merchant films of old) from the 2007 novel written by author Andre Aciman, director Luca Guadagnino brought us to an idyllic setting of rural quietude and simplicity. It was the perfect ambiance for the blossoming of a young love with its sun-kissed meadows and ponds, dusty paths for bicycle rides and empty town plazas and al fresco cafes.

The 22-year old and androgynous Chalamet and 31-year old 6-foot-4 All-American chap Hammer seem to be ideally cast as Elio and Oliver. Chalamet was staring with his simmering longing in his eyes as Hammer was strutting around nonchalantly with his attractive over-confidence. Between the two of them, Chalamet was certainly the more sincere and effective actor than his co-star from whom discomfort can be felt.

Even with all these positive things going for it, not to mention all those numerous award nominations, I personally thought that this film was over-hyped. The progression of the story was slow, with repetitive distractions. When intentions were revealed, that moment came too abruptly and with little sense of romantic thrill in its execution. The manner one asked if offense was felt by the other was even rather vulgar. The sex scenes themselves felt rushed and lacked tension.

Even the meaning of the title is lost to me. Why should one call the other by his name be an expression of love? It was pretentious and certainly unrealistic. Those scenes when they were calling out to each other with the other's names felt corny and made me cringe.

Also uncomfortable to watch was that sticky love scene with a peach, which was done in all seriousness probably as a metaphor of some nebulous sort. A similar scene with the apple pie seen in "American Pie" was at least done purely for the sake of humorous raunch.

Those scenes of making the first move on one's dream guy, as well the that remarkable final scene of paternal candidness and unconditionality, will definitely resonate positively for any young gay man seeking love and acceptance. Therefore, this film would work very well for that niche of viewers.

However, for those who aren't in that particular demographic, the effusive awards hype may lead to high expectations which may not be met. As far as gay-themed mainstream movies go for me, "Brokeback Mountain" and "Moonlight" engaged better than this one. 6/10

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."