“Call Me By Your Name” takes a while to get going and then ... it doesn’t really get going. It doesn’t need to.
This coming-of-age love story is all texture, tone and nuance. Tastes and colors and landscapes roll by at a slow, luxuriously lingering pace. Yes, some things happen, and some are even a bit outrageous. But, for the most part, this a film about a time, a place and a romance.
That time would be the summer of 1983. Elio (Timothee Chalamet, likely 2017’s breakout star) is a 17-year-old American boy staying with his archaeologist professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg) and mother (Amira Casar) at a gorgeous villa in northern Italy. Elio is sophisticated — he plays instruments (classical music, of course), he speaks a variety of languages — but he is not versed in the ways of love.
Enter Oliver (Armie Hammer), the professor’s absurdly hale and beautiful research assistant for the summer. Elio has to abandon his bedroom to the new arrival for one next to it, and the only way to get out is past Oliver’s bed. Beyond that, the two share a bathroom. The stage is set.
And then things slowly come together. Oliver enters into an awkward romance with a young girl friend (Esther Garrel) even as he and Oliver are growing close. After weeks of talking, playing, sunbathing and skirting the issue, the two connect.
And inevitably summer ends. As does the film with an astonishing monologue from Stuhlbarg about, love, time and opportunities. “Call Me By Your Name” — which refers to a private romantic game the two devise — isn’t a hammer of a film; director Luca Guadagnino has instead made a lovely cinematic feather. And it floats down beautifully, riding a soft breeze of melancholy and grace.
Tom Long is a longtime culture critic.
‘Call Me By Your Name’
Rated R for sexual content, nudity and some language
Running time: 132 minutes