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Beau­ti­fully made ‘Call Me By Your Name’ wa­ters down sex­u­al­ity

Ever since its de­but at the 2017 Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val back in Jan­uary, “Call Me By Your Name” has been near the top of the must-see list for LGBT au­di­ences. Now get­ting a wide re­lease and a likely Os­car con­tender, it’s a strong film, mov­ing and beau­ti­ful in many ways, but it’s also one that feels cu­ri­ously re­strained and safe, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing its sub­ject mat­ter.

Based on An­dré Aci­man’s 2007 book and set in an un­de­fined part of North­ern Italy, it fol­lows the sex­ual awak­en­ing of 17-year-old Elio (Ti­mothée Cha­la­met)), who is spend­ing the sum­mer in the Ital­ian coun­try­side with his par­ents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar.) It’s 1983 and Elio’s father has in­vited 24-year-old Amer­i­can grad stu­dent Oliver (Ar­mie Ham­mer) to as­sist him with re­search. Over the sum­mer, Elio be­gins see­ing a young woman, Marzia (Es­ther Gar­rel), but finds him­self drawn to Oliver. Soon the two start a dis­creet re­la­tion­ship — in­clud­ing three days on their own — be­fore Oliver has to go away.

Made by a gay di­rec­tor (Luca Guadagnino) and a gay writer (the leg­endary James Ivory), both of whom have cre­ated films that dealt with love and sex­u­al­ity, “Call Me By Your Name” is a beau­ti­fully made movie. The lo­ca­tions give the film a won­der­ful sense of time and place. It’s a slow burn ro­mance; the re­la­tion­ship takes a while to build and it’s not un­til the sec­ond hour be­fore the two con­nect and nav­i­gate what is be­tween them.

No one can ar­gue with the cast­ing. Cha­la­met — also seen in “Lady Bird” and the up­com­ing “Hos­tiles” — is ter­rific as Elio. He’s goofy, con­fused, horny, happy, sad and sex­u­ally pre­pared for the re­la­tion­ship but maybe not emo­tion­ally ready for the con­se­quences. His last scene is heart-wrench­ing and will likely earn him an Os­car nom­i­na­tion. In his best work since “The So­cial Net­work,” Ham­mer is just right as Oliver. The ac­tor is in his early 30s but smoothly fits the char­ac­ter. And near the end of the film, Stuhlbarg’s per­cep­tive father has a ter­rific speech that is un­equiv­o­cally the high­light of the movie.

“Call Me By Your Name” is a film that is in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing, yet not emo­tion­ally en­gag­ing un­til the end. It’s never re­ally erotic,

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