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Laramie Movie Scope:
Call Me By Your Name

Delicate, low-key, slow moving love story

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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January 30, 2018 – I drove to another city to see this because it was the only Academy Award nominee for Best Picture I had not seen. This is a very delicate love story between man and boy with wonderful, subtle performances by Armie Hammer (who plays the man, Oliver) and Timothée Chalamet (the boy, Elio). The cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom is superb (lots of beautiful scenery) and the music on the soundtrack is great, too.

The romance between Oliver and Elio is played like a delicate dance. The film is based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman. At first 17-year-old Elio Perlman despises 24-year-old Oliver, who seems to him to be a boorish American interloper at the summer home of his family, headed by Oliver's father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg of “The Shape of Water”) and mother (Amira Casar). Oliver has come to the Perlman summer home to help Elio's father with scholarly research, and has taken over Elio's room.

As the summer, and the movie wears on, Oliver and Elio circle each other warily, each waiting for the other to make the first move. In fact, Oliver does make the first romantic move, but Elio doesn't pick up on it. Finally Elio makes a statement that seems to indicate how he feels about Oliver. Oliver's response is, “Are you saying what I think you are saying?”

They move together, then they move apart for a time. When they finally do get together sexually, it is handled in a very tasteful way, except for one masturbation scene involving a peach, and what is done with that violated peach later. I wondered just how far the movie was going to go with the peach, and the answer is, pretty far, but not as far as the book of the same name does. Oliver jokes that Elio has moved on to the plant kingdom in his desires.

To me, the best scene in the film is a conversation between Elio and his father about Elio's relationship with Oliver. The speech by Michael Stuhlbarg in this scene is, heartfelt and and filled with wonderful, unconventional understanding. I think Stuhlbarg is a very under-rated actor. He should have gotten a lot more awards and nominations for this performance. I think Armie Hammer's fine performance in this film has also been overlooked by some, but Timothée Chalamet has gotten the lion's share of award nominations.

This movie plays like a daydream on a long, lazy summer day. It's pace is slow. I must have checked my watch 20 times before it was over. I was getting hungry, and it just kept plodding on and on past the two hour mark. It is not just the slow pace, but it is also the lack of drama in the story. Ordinarily, in this kind of story, there would be some real danger to the two main characters if their relationship is discovered. Even though the story is set in the more intolerant time of the 1980s, that dramatic tension is lacking in this movie. The story is also predictable.

The lack of drama in the film is a product of changing attitudes towards homosexuality. There was a time not so long ago that a movie like this would have been considered shocking, and it would have been given the kiss of death, the deadly NC-17 rating. Now, this subject matter is more mainstream.

Set in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, some of the scenery in the film, including a waterfall, is spectacular. The location shots are sumptuous and inviting. The acting is subtle and moving. This film has a lot going for it, but it is also very low-key, relatively non-dramatic and slow-moving. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]