Critics everywhere have been falling over themselves with praise for this film. I confess that I am not sharing the love.
Based on André Aciman's 2007 novel, Call Me By Your Name recounts the summer of 1983, as spent by Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a bored 17-year-old "stuck" in Northern Italy with his parents, an archaeology professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) and a French/Italian woman (Amira Casar) who has inherited a large, rustic estate. When not eating sumptuous Italian meals, playing the piano beautifully, lazing about in the sun, reading classic books and speaking three languages with his family and their servants, poor Elio has to hang out with gorgeous French girls. What an awful life! If only a handsome movie star entered the picture...
And so we get a miscast Armie Hammer as Oliver, a postgrad student flown over to spend six weeks with the family, ostensibly to help the father do research but really there to laze about in the sun, read classic books, etc. Because that's pretty much all he and Elio do, until their ambiguous flirtation blossoms into something much more.
Let me interject by saying that I did not hate Call Me By Your Name. It's pretty, it's romantic, and it has heart. It's more of a "memory film" than a drama, and anyone lucky enough to have summered in Europe in the 1980s will bask in the nostalgia. But I simply could not care about these snobbish, privileged characters, regardless of their struggles with their sexuality.
And about those struggles: despite the story unfolding in famously homophobic Italy, there are no threats to Elio's and Oliver's budding romance, besides their own intermittent insecurities. It's nice that Elio's liberal parents are supportive, but they actually seem to encourage their timid teenage son to have a sexual relationship with a worldly older man (Oliver is 24 in the novel; Hammer was 30 at the time of filming, and looks it), which is absurd – especially since, in 1983, the nascent AIDS epidemic was stoking the fears of even the most open-minded of parents.
In short, Call Me By Your Name is pure gay male fantasy – a dreamworld in which a beautiful 17-year-old boy can have a summer fling with a beautiful older man in the lush Italian countryside and the parents endorse it, there's no such thing as HIV, the Italians don't give a damn, and even the gorgeous French girls understand.
If this were a heterosexual story, and Elio was a 17-year-old girl messing about with Armie Hammer, I doubt critics would be so lavish with their praise. Gay romantic dramas should be held to the same standard as straight ones, and this one didn't win me over.