Don’t ‘Call Me’

Set in Lombardy, Italy, Luca Guadagnino’s film is visually pleasing but the pacing is just painfully slow.

“Call Me by Your Name” is the 2017 coming-of-age film that everyone liked. Friends called it “beautiful prose” and “pure poetry.” I call it an EQ test.

It was just too long for my attention span. That, or I don’t have the vulnerability for the ’80s drama which chronicles the romance between Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), the smart 17-year-old Italian, and his archeologist dad’s assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer), the American grad student who is staying with the family for six weeks, mostly for research.

Elio is a musically gifted, well-read lanky teenager who just started shaving. Oliver is a friendly and charming tourist who enjoys flirting and swimming; he’s also a strong volleyball player.

For a while, my social media feed was riddled with “Call Me” raves (mostly from gay and girl friends) which set extra high expectation. I really wanted to like it; I don’t hate it, but the movie could have been tightened. The pacing, for me, was painfully slow.

“Call Me by Your Name” is written by James Ivory and directed by Luca Guadagnino. It is the movie adaptation of the 2007 novel of the same title by André Aciman, and the final installment of the author’s “Desire” trilogy.

Visually, it is very pleasing. It shows a perfect Italian countryside summer, and one could almost smell in the air the plump peaches ripening in the lush orchard. The sky is clear and saturated blue, and the water in the river seems cold but soothing.

Also, they are always eating.

Mr. and Mrs. Perlman are gracious hosts who often serve food in their rustic villa: toast, Nutella and soft-boiled egg for breakfast, plus pasta and apricot juice, and homemade gelato, al fresco.

It’s kinda shameful that the Italian food, and the presence of Peroni beer and Illy coffee, seduced me more than the love story.

The intimate scenes between Oliver and Elio are poignant and sensual, but are we supposed to get turned on?

What stirred me most would be Mr. Perlman’s monologue, while talking to Elio: “How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now, there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.

Go Daddy Perlman (his first name was never mentioned), we can only wish that such parental wisdom and acceptance is universal.

Elio’s heartbreaking fireplace scene is a haunting closing. We’ve all been there, staring into something and silently mourning.

And speaking of pain, let’s recognize the friendzoned girls that Elio and Oliver were supposed to be dating: Marzia (Esther Garrel) and Chiara (Victoire Du Bois) who had no idea.

Thank you, Mrs. Perlman, for inviting Chiara to dinner when Oliver left without a word to her. Such enabler parents!

Watching “Call Me by Your Name”—twice—was a lesson on acceptance, and I think I passed the EQ test.

And on restarts, let’s take note of what Daddy Perlman has to say: “We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”


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