Luca Guadagnino’s (I AM LOVE, A BIGGER SPALSH) CALL ME BY YOUR NAME arrives with all the accolades after playing major festivals around the world after premiering at Sundance and Cannes. I did not think too much of it when I first saw it at the Toronto International Film Festival, so I had to view it a second time to see what I could have missed. The second viewing proved no different in the way I felt about the film, so I had to analyze the reason so many fellow critics loved this film while I just barely enjoyed it.
It should be noted firstly, that 2017 saw the release of three excellent but different gay films. BPM from France, is a documentary felt drama dealing with AIDS activists that is both moving, real and riveting. Britain’s GOD’S OWN COUNTRY showed that gay life is as tough as fucking against a wall, as experienced by the gay farmhand who finally gains acceptance of his lifestyle and finds love. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, however is fantasy gay life as if bathed in sunlight and swimming in clear waters in the country and eating peaches. It is the gay kind of movie that straight people want to see – all pretty and non-troubling with no rough sex in the toilet.
The two lead stars are straight. Armie Hammer (THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE LONE RANGER) plays Oliver, a summer guest at Professor Perlman’s (Michael Stuhlbarg) summer house in Italy. Every year, the professor invites a student to assist in his research, which incidentally is hardly shown in the film. The other straight lead is Timothée Chalamet who plays the 17-year old Elio Perlman, the professor’s son, who falls for Oliver. Both are American actors though Chalamet practised his Italian prior to acting in the movie. His father is French and mother Jewish which is suitable for his role as an Italian Jew in the movie. You call me by your name, and I yours. It all sounds so romantic. The gay couple hardly encounter any obstacles, except a few minor ones. Elio’s father (Michae Stuhlbarg) opens his heart out to his son in one of the film’s best segments, but that is about all the obstacles so far in this gay fantasy.
Guadagnino’s film is undoubtedly stunning, with sunlight lighting up many scenes. The luscious eating of a peach and the sexual seduction (who seduces whom in the film?) is very erotic.
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is adapted into the script by James Ivory from André Aciman’s coming-out and coming-of-age novel. Still, together with films such as PHILADELPHIA, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME even made by a gay director (Guadagnino is openly gay) is a worthwhile straight gay film to watch it, but don’t expect life to unfold the way life does in this film. Disgustingly beautiful – the film is all good-looking on the outside and feeling like a fairy tale, neglecting the downers of coming-out gay. Things never turn out this perfect in any gay coming-out story. The film feels even more awkward as Elio looks way under below the age of 17.