Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.
The Inspirational: Call Me By Your Name
Maybe it’s that we spent all summer listening to Lil Nas X, or maybe it’s that the coming of Labor Day means summer is on the wane. Regardless, this weekend has us pining for the juiciest of all “I’ll Never Forget That Summer” romances.
Call Me By Your Name took the world by storm in 2017 for its portrayal of a passionate love affair between two young men. Set in 1983, the movie follows the story of Elio (Timothée Chalamet), the son of an archeology professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) living in Italy. One summer, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a grad student, comes to live with the family as an assistant to Elio’s dad. Elio feels an immediate sexual attraction to Oliver, who first seems aloof, but comes to return Elio’s flirtation. Their erotic desire for one another grows, until one night it reaches an explosive passion. The two have a brief, tender affair before Oliver must leave for the US.
Chalamet rocketed from obscurity onto the Hollywood A-List thanks to Call Me By Your Name, and with good reason: he didn’t just give a great performance in the film, he gave the best performance of 2017. Observe the way he controls his eyes in the film, emoting both youthful innocence and fiery intellect. Few actors could manage to do both at the same time, but Chalamet does it. His is one of the greatest portrayals of a teenager in the history of cinema.
It helps, of course, that Chalamet has ample assistance, starting with the magnificent, Oscar-winning screenplay by James Ivory (who is gay, and who also became the oldest Oscar winner in history for his script). Armie Hammer does a fine job as Oliver, making him into a carefree, reluctant lover. The real standout supporting work, however, comes from Stuhlbarg, who plays Professor Perlman as an observant, loving father. A monologue he delivers late in the film should have nabbed him an Oscar nomination, and hints at a deeper truth: many young people have same-sex love affairs, and regardless of what the future holds, they are nothing to be ashamed of. (The monologue also raises questions about just what all those politicians and homophobes mean when they tell queer people to “grow up.” What tragic, gay affair did they have in their youth?)
Shot on location in beautiful Italian vistas, Call Me By Your Name throbs with sensuality and eroticism–few movies are this sexy, or this touching. Director Luca Guadagnino had promised a sequel, catching up with the pair more than a decade later. Hammer’s recent scandals, however, seem to have eaten up the prospect of a second helping. Lucky for us, we can always return to the original.
There’s a reason the movie inspired Lil Nas X’s biggest hit to date. Oliver and Eilo won’t soon forget that magical summer, and neither will we.
Streams on Starz, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon & VUDU.