Timothée Chalamet is a name the mouth pulls on, like the sweet edge of a lollipop. In Call Me by Your Name, he is the beautifying mirror that reflects, in embarrassing detail, the savorings of everyone’s first lust. That first bite of the apple consumes him in a way that seems almost invisible to most of the adults; it visits him like an imaginary friend. But Elio has that luxury of youth: to be blinkered. Summer is in his eyes, and that is all he sees.
Luca Guadagnino, the director, coaxes us onto the chaise, and feeds us this summer the way a Roman sybarite was fed grapes. Though set in Northern Italy, in 1983, the film uses the recent past as a cover for timelessness. The neon era is honeyed, synthetic fashions brought back to earth. Guadagnino and the cinematographer, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, treat us to a rhapsody in green—a proscenium arch framing ancient passions. Through Elio, we are enticed to bask in the remote sunlight of our memories: The moisture in his eyes is reflective like morning dew. But I think his yearning is also a fig leaf over something these filmmakers value over experience.
The 17-year-old Elio is the wundertwink of Franco-Italo-American-Jewish polyglot polymaths; his father (Michael Stuhlbarg, never given a name to be called by other than Mr. Perlman) seems to be a professor of antiquities who works from home in their villa. Into this academic hen house struts a magnificent rooster, a graduate student whose own origins are similarly ethereal: Oliver (Armie Hammer), a Jewish WASP jock intellectual.