Call Me By Your Name

A powerful love story that will be a turnoff for many. Those are the very people who should see it.

Call Me By Your NameCall Me By Your Name, directed in splendid fashion by Luca Guadagnino, is one of the most creative and interesting films released in 2017. Centered in an exquisite villa in Lombardy, Italy, it focuses on the meaning of love, both found and lost. It has justifiably been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

The film centers on a family led by Mr. Pearlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), an anthropologist dedicated to his wife and son as well as his work. Stuhlbarg enhances any movie as clearly reflected by his role as the New York Times Publisher Abe Rosenthal in The Post and his performance as a Communist spy with a heart in the memorable The Shape of Water.

Mr. Stuhlbarg is matched by Amira Casar, who plays his intelligent and family-oriented wife Annella. However, it is their 17-year-old son Elio that commands their attention. Nominated for a Best Actor Oscar,  you watch Timothee Chalamet’s heartbreaking performance as a teenage boy occupying most of his time writing music, playing both a guitar and piano, reading whenever possible, taking time to swim in a local lake while charming nearly every young girl that he meets.

Things change for everyone with the arrival of Oliver, a 30ish intern working  under the direction of Mr. Pearlman. As Elio shows Oliver the countryside on bicycle excursions, a friendship begins to develop that evolves into something far more emotionally deeper. On top of that, Armie Hammer’s role as Oliver reminds you of the promise he displayed as one of the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network (2010).

Watching Oliver dance with some of the local girls, it is clear that Elio is jealous that most of these young local girls are smitten with the older man. Wrestling with his on-and-off relationship with Marzia (Esther Garrel), Oliver dominates his thoughts from the time he wakes up in the morning to going to bed at night.

Slowly but surely an earnest romance between two men evolves in a fashion seldom seen on the big screen. Oliver doesn’t want to offend the family giving him free room and board, nor does he want to enable a 17-year-old boy to go down a path that both may regret. Yet their attraction to each other resembles two flies caught in a spider web, and you know that they both are eventually going to throw caution to the wind.

Most of us know that the heart is a lonely hunter, and no one can dictate the consequences when two people are inadvertently attracted to each other. They are as likely to end up in each other’s arms as an old nail ends up attached to a young magnet.

While you know Oliver is going to have to leave, wait until you see a scene close to the end of the film where Mr. Pearlman tenderly addresses his devastated son. Rather than condemn him, Mr. Stuhlbarg’s character tells his son to embrace the experience even if it now becomes a memory. Father reminds son that to ignore your heart is to risk the very meaning of life.

Advice for the ages.