BFI Flare 2018: Call Me By Your Name

B F I  F L A R E
L o n d o n  L G B T  F i l m  F e s t i v a l  2 0 1 8

"When Oliver (Armie Hammer) visits a family’s rural Italian villa over the course of one summer, young Elio (Oscar-nominated Timothée Chalamet) finds his life turned upside down. His father, an academic and archaeologist, has invited Oliver to help him with his research. The suave American easily fits into this world, becoming a fixture with the gamblers in the local cafe and making everyone fall in love with his effortless athletic enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Elio’s obsession with Oliver becomes overwhelming as the weeks go by. Dare he hope for more than friendship?"

Here's a confession: I didn't want to like Call Me By Your Name. I came to the screening with rock bottom expectations (despite having read, and enjoyed, André Aciman's novel of the same name), determined to be be proven right.

In part, this was down to ear ache from the incessant hype this film has generated since it was first mooted. The heterosexuality of the two leads (Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet) niggled me, too. Gay for pay doesn't necessarily make a rotten tomato, but it's never a bonus. And then there was the suspicion that this was the gay movie the mainstream gay media really wanted. You know, "Moonlight was all well and good, but that was about blacks. This movie's really about us... "

And, with its precocious, privileged protagonist on the continent, the reek of the sickeninly bourgeoisie Departure (my personal film bête noire) also haunted Call Me By Your Name.

And it was looking dicey for a while. Initially, Chalamet's Elio didn't endear himself to me, and Hammer just doesn't have the legs for the kind of shorts he parades around in. (Please dear, put them away. You ain't Simeon Panda.) But, gradually, their slow-burning romance won me over. The first hour is the calm before the storm; the storm speaks of unbridled teenage lust. I can just about remember that long ago, and if you've forgotten, Call Me By Your Name will remind you.

Special mention must go to Timothée Chalamet, who is sensational. Few of us, perhaps, have spent summer days lazing around the Lomardy countryside whilst mother reads to us from a 16th century romance, but most of us will have endured the wonderful, terrible tidal wave of hormones and feelings that hit Elio.

Just like that teen cocktail, Call Me By Your Name is a beautiful agony.

Every year, KAOS reports from the annual BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival. This year, I'll be reviewing seven films. 


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