The Culture Movies

Romantic film 'Call Me by Your Name' is too determinedly soothing

The film centers on the romance between teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a grad student who has arrived for a summer internship with Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Armie Hammer star in "Call Me By Your Name."
Courtesy of Peter Spears/Sony Pictures Classics
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  • Peter Rainer
    Film critic

Set in 1983 in the sun-dappled northern Italian countryside, “Call Me by Your Name” is nothing if not languorous. Directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by James Ivory based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman, it’s about the initially tentative but inexorably passionate romance between 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet), who is spending the summer with his parents in their 17th-century villa, and 24-year-old Oliver (Armie Hammer), a grad student who has arrived for a summer internship with Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg), a professor of Greco-Roman antiquities.

As was also true of Guadagnino’s earlier movies, “I am Love” and “A Bigger Splash,” the sensuous atmosphere often preempts the drama. Neither Elio nor (especially) Oliver are quite rich enough as characters to outshine their surroundings, and, although it’s rare to see a movie of this sort that is so markedly nonjudgmental, the lack of sharp conflict doesn’t make for a terribly invigorating experience. Although it ends on a powerful, bittersweet chord, the movie is a bit too determinedly soothing for comfort. Grade: B (Rated R for sexual content, nudity, and some language.)    

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