One the most beautifully directed films of awards season, “Call Me by Your Name” is a vibrant meditation on first love — and its inevitable impermanence. As Elio and Oliver, the film’s electrifying duo, every movement by Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer is precisely chosen and effortlessly natural. The timid lovers dance nervously around each other, both physically and metaphorically, whether it’s to the tune of the Psychedelic Furs or the trickle of an Italian fountain.
Based on the novel by Andre Aciman, “Call Me by Your Name” takes place at an Italian countryside villa in the mid-1980s. Oliver (Hammer), an older American graduate student, falls in love with Elio (Chalamet) while living with the family as a research assistant to Elio’s father. Building gradually, the sexual energy between them comes through with a longing glance, intellectual sparring, or the spaces between their bodies. According to Chalamet, director Luca Guadagnino did not want to make a traditional sexual-awakening film.
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“Luca felt it had become almost an assumption of movies about sexual coming-of-age was the scene where you see it in very explicit terms,” said Chalamet during an interview for IndieWire’s Spotlight Awards series. “That’s simply not what the movie is about. To treat the sexual material salaciously or exploitatively wouldn’t be doing Andre Aciman’s novel justice.”
Hammer paraphrased Guadagnino more succinctly: “He said, ‘I’m already letting you into these two people’s private, emotional, rich, internal lives. If I let you in on everything, it would seem exploitative of these two people.'”
“It’s a love story. The sexual bits in the movie, like the scene with a peach or the scene between us, they’re not the stars of the film,” added Chalamet. “The love between these guys is specific and passionate and out there, but then there’s also a lovemaking scene with a peach. Although funny in context, it really serves as a metamorphosis of some of the strongest ideas in the movie.”
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