February 7, 2018

Call Me by Your Name: Gay Teen Seduces Dad’s Doctoral Student in Adaptation of Novel

By Kam Williams

In 1983, 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) is spending another summer in Lombardy, in northern Italy, with his parents. Each year, Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an archaeology professor, invites a different doctoral candidate to live with his family over the summer and be his research assistant.

This year, the guest is Oliver (Armie Hammer) who is Jewish and gay. That’s just fine with Elio, who’s exploring his sexuality and has been dating a local girl (Esther Garrel), until Oliver arrives at the villa.

It isn’t long before Elio realizes that he is developing feelings for the 24-year-old Oliver, who is quick to understand what is happening. Elio and Oliver spend long stretches of time flirting with each other, whether it’s swimming in the lake, canoodling at a cafe, or taking walks along the shore. 

So, despite the teasing courtship dance, there’s never a question of whether they’ll sleep together. Eventually, the relationship is consummated during a midnight rendezvous that is the beginning of a secret affair that will last for the balance of Oliver’s stay.

Thus unfolds Call Me by Your Name, a deliberately-paced adaptation of André Aciman’s coming-of-age novel of the same name. Directed by native Sicilian Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love), the homoerotic film received four Academy Award nominations in the Best Picture, Lead Actor (Timothee Chalamet), Screenplay, and Song categories.

Fair warning, the film never raises the question of statutory rape that is likely to arise in the minds of many audience members, given today’s sensitivity to sexual abuse issues. Nevertheless, this bittersweet movie deserves all the accolades its been showered with for its portrayal of a gay teen who is apprehensive about sharing his sexual preference with his parents. The movie is memorable because of the very delicate and supportive manner in which Dr. Perlman handles his son’s anxieties about coming out.

The film features remarkable performances by Michael Stuhlbarg, Armie Hammer, and Timothee Chalamet.

Excellent (****). Rated R for sexuality, nudity, and some profanity. Running time: 132 minutes. In English, Italian, French, Hebrew, and German with subtitles. Production Studios: Frenesy Film Company/La Cinefacture/RT Features/Waters End Productions/M.Y.R.A. Entertainment. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics.