Luca Guadagnino's romantic drama Call Me By Your Name sneaks up on you -- by the end, it stings with the lingering ache of a late-summer sunburn. Adapted by James Ivory from Andre Aciman's acclaimed novel, the story follows 17-year-old somewhat introverted musician Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and 24-year-old doctoral student Oliver (Armie Hammer) through a long, frustrated summer of latent desire and thwarted courtship, culminating in a fervid if ephemeral affair. Guadagnino adeptly captures not just physicality of a burning love but also the emotional and intellectual components, and the film is all the more salient for that careful, realistic interpretation.
It's the 1980s. Elio and his family reside in a palatial but rustic Italian villa in the northern countryside, where peaches and other succulent fruits dangle just within reach from the trees shading the family's land. When Elio's father's new summer research assistant Oliver arrives, the sleepy house suddenly takes on new life. Elio, who slinks in and out of rooms to study the houseguest, at first takes offense at the new student's "arrogant" goodbyes (a casual "Later") and then to his lingering hand on Elio's bare back. But it's really Elio's burgeoning feelings for Oliver that allow these niggling annoyances to get at him.
When Elio finally tells Oliver he's attracted to him, the scene is grandly romantic, like a queer Casablanca or Last Year at Marienbad. When the men are together, endlessly teasing one another, the story sings and surprises. Chalamet is magnetic and unpredictable as Elio. It's thrilling to watch this film and realize that the 21-year-old actor will be in many others. I'm looking forward to the era of the Chalamet leading man.