Following Oscar hype at its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, “Call Me by Your Name” shows up at the Toronto International Film Festival with the hopes of increasing the buzz. And after its premiere screening here Thursday night, it did just that.
From director Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love,” “A Bigger Splash”), with a script by James Ivory, this adaptation of the André Aciman novel is a touching portrait of a summer love affair between student Oliver (Armie Hammer) and the son of the professor that’s taken him in, Elio (Timothée Chalamet).
Guadagnino has dazzled audiences in the past with lush visuals of rural Italy that makes you want to jump on a plane and vacation there. “Call Me by Your Name” is no different, as the “somewhere in Northern Italy” setting is a character all its own in the movie with its hidden ponds, cute towns, and a rustic villa. But what’s different this time around is that with the movie’s setting of the late 1980s, Guadagnino gives us a more playful feel. Similar to “A Bigger Splash,” the movie features fun music and a lot of sexual tension, but in “Call Me By Your Name” there’s no sinister third act. The movie is about sexual discovery and the feeling of finding your first love.
The movie is fuelled by Elio’s fondness for Oliver, which turns into a mutual love over the six weeks they are together. Hammer plays the Oliver character as a macho American, who shows up with a confidence that at first intimidates Elio. But by the end, Elio doesn’t want to just sleep with him, he wants to be just like him.
Hammer and Chalamet have incredible on-screen chemistry as they go back and forth from a playful big brother/little brother vibe to passionate lovers. Both should be in the awards season discussion (Guadagnino as well), but it’s Hammer who really shines. The Oliver role gives him the opportunity to really show off his dramatic chops and leading man charm.
The movie might be a little too long (running time is over two hours). By the end it gets to the point where there are about three different endings. But buried in there is a fantastic scene between Chalamet and character actor Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays his father, that is an emotional high of the movie.
“Call Me By Your Name” opens in theatres November 24.
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