Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name” might become known as “Brokeback Biscotti” or “Peachtree Mountain.” But this sensitively told gay love story set in Italy in 1983 has been a huge hit tonight as one of the opening night films of the Toronto Film Festival. It may also cause a stir because one of the characters has sex with a peach. Superior acting, especially from Michael Stuhlbarg as the most understanding and insightful parent in history. A beautiful hit.
Even though it’s set in 1983, “Call Me By Your Name” is going to resonate in 2017 with a lot of different people — but most likely young people in this new environment where it’s okay to be whomever you want. Michael Stuhlbarg is American and Jewish, and a professor of archeology who lives in Northern Italy with his Italian-French wife and son Elio (Chalamet) in a ramshackle country home. Into this comes a new assistant from the US, Oliver (Hammer), who’s like a shining Robert Redford-ish matinee idol.
It’s almost a set up. The parents seem to understand without discussing it that Elio– who is a gifted musician– is likely gay. They almost assign Oliver to Elio and watch their relationship grow– even as Elio struggles with his feelings and attempts to woo a local girl who has a crush on him. That’s the basic scenario as the relationship between the teen and the young assistant blossoms.
SPOILER as Armie Hammer pointed out to me after the screening at a party at STK in Toronto, no one dies, no one gets AIDS or is punished for being gay. And an unexpected speech by Stuhlbarg toward the end of the film is so moving that it legitimizes the entire film and everything you’ve seen up to that point. It’s quite brilliant and should earn Stuhlbarg an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actor. Whether you’re straight or gay. it’s a moment like no other in film. Bravo.
As for the peach– well, let’s just say that produce has never had a moment like this in movies. Luckily, by November when the movie opens, peaches will mostly be out of season. Otherwise Stop and Shop would be having a problem.