Tuesday, October 10, 2017

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME - Day 7 - BFI London Film Festival 2017

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has two problems that I couldn’t get over. In fact, even more than that, I had a miserable and difficult time watching this film - even though it was one of my most anticipated and by one of the most exciting directors working today - Luca Guadagnino. The first problem is its length. I kid you not, but basically nothing happens in the first hour of this film. A pretty arrogant and self-indulgent middle-aged man called Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives at an Italian villa owned by an academic (Michael Stuhlbarg) he’s working with. There seems to be an antipathy between Oliver and the professor’s teenage son, Elio and each of them seems to be flirting with girls about town. As we move into the second hour of the film it becomes clear that the antipathy is of the kind one might see in a playground where kids pretend not to really like the girl or boy they actually like. Oliver pulls back from taking the flirtation further but actually teases Elio by suggesting trips to town together and initiating physical intimacy. The messages are mixed but Oliver clearly knows that the relationship would be seen as wrong. He cites this as a reason to pull back. 

And this is where we get to the second problem with the film: the casting of Armie Hammer. For a start, he can’t match the acting ability of Michael Stuhlbarg (magnificent in his one big scene) or indeed newcomer Timothée Chalamet as Elio. When the father generously calls Oliver good, and the relationship meaningful, I just sat there wondering how he’d got that from the flaky, selfish  (and apart from one opening gambit to show his intelligence, not conspicuously smart or interesting) personality I’d seen on screen. A related issue is that while in real life Armie Hammer is 31, for me he looked a lot older than that. And that gave the relationship a pretty nasty feel to it - one of uneven power, grooming and exploitation. I feel that Guadagnino really messed up with his casting and should’ve gone for someone who actually looked like a mid-20s post-doc, and a kid who looked a more mature 17 then a 14/15. And I’m pretty amazed that audiences haven’t screamed louder about this. I wonder if the critical reaction would’ve been as warm if this had played out between an old man and a 15 year old looking girl. It left a very bitter taste in my mouth indeed. 

Meester Phil's points to other issues with the film although he didn't find age to be such an issue:  he found the pacing uneven - that the film somehow didn't cohere or feel credible to him. As a result he wasn't emotionally involved. 

So, for those looking for a truly beautiful gay love story, and one that isn’t shy about explicit sex either, then check out 120 BPM and leave this behind.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has a running time of 130 minutes and is rated R. The movie played Sundance, Berlin, Sydney, Melbourne, San Sebastian, Toronto, New York and London 2017. It opens in the UK on Oct 27th, in the USA on Nov 24th, in Sweden on Dec 1st, in Canada on Dec 8th, in Thailand on Dec 14th, in Australia on Dec 26th, in France on Jan 10th, in Brazil on Jan 18th, in Greece on Feb 8th and in Germany on March 1st.


  1. "I wonder if the critical reaction would’ve been as warm if this had played out between an old man and a 15 year old looking girl."

    Oh, I don't know....have you heard of this movie called Dirty Dancing? The age disparity is the same if not greater than in CMBYN (Baby is 17 and Johnny is easily mid-20s). It's also set in America 20 years earlier than CMBYN -- scandalous! Do you have a hard time watching that? It's a classic/guilty pleasure for so many.

    And Hammer has always looked more "mature" than his age. I thought he was in his late twenties when he played the Winklevoss twins. That's not to say he looks old, just that there are people in their mid-20's that look 30-something as well as those that still look like teenagers. Anyway, IT'S FICTION. It seems like the problems you had with this have more to do with you than the film. With so many rave reviews, you were obviously too distracted to catch the subtleties in that first hour of "nothing." I wonder why you even bothered to write a review for a film you admittedly had so much trouble giving your full attention.

  2. So, I finally saw this movie, and thought it was ok, but not great. Definitely overrated. WAY too long. Would have made a better 40-ish minute film. But even then, we get almost no dialogue for much of the movie. I would have liked to know more of what these characters (including the parents) are thinking. And yeah, I'm not sure what to make of Armie's character or his acting. When the character said he was after Elio the whole time, it didn't ring true to me, at least as I'd seen it on camera. I'm glad I saw it, but it won't really stay with me.