Armie Hammer as Oliver and Timothee Chalamet as Elio in "Call Me By Your Name."

Armie Hammer as Oliver and Timothee Chalamet as Elio in "Call Me By Your Name."

Sony Pictures Classics/

Call Me by Your Name is a film of great fluidity — cultural, lingual, cinematic and sexual. Set in a sun-kissed Northern Italian villa circa 1983, the movie is rapturous to look at. The characters seem to know this; their awe of their surroundings matches the experience of the viewer. There's no snake in this garden, unless you count the confusion and pain of a first love that carries an expiration date.

Timothée Chalamet gives a revelatory performance as Elio, a restless, precociously intellectual 17-year-old living with his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) in paradise. Dad is a professor of Greco-Roman culture and an American Jew. Mom is an Italian translator. Elio spends most of his time flirting with local girls, chain-reading books and enjoying his surroundings. Chalamet gives Elio a blend of arrogance and vulnerability, a ready sneer to go with sad eyes.

Then his world is turned inside out by the arrival of his dad's summer research assistant. Oliver swaggers into the villa and charms everyone. He's polite but a little cocky. He's played by Armie Hammer, so he's sly and handsome and confident. The girls swarm to him, and he and Elio engage in emotional and intellectual sparring. They spend some time circling each other. And gradually but definitively, the circling and sparring turns into love.

Writer-director Luca Guadagnino is an aesthetic sensualist; he did, after all, make a blindingly beautiful film called I Am Love (doesn't get much more direct than that). The beauty of the landscape in Call Me by Your Name, and the advanced wokeness of Elio's parents, almost play like a cosmic joke on us mere mortals. But there's no snark in the movie. It's tender and irony-free, even in the scenes that find Hammer dancing freely, arms pumping, to the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way." (Remember, we're in 1983.) When Elio's mom reads him a 16th-century romance, translating it from German to English, it's not a moment to smirk at. This is who these people are, in all their lovely cultural literacy.

Clockwise from left: Director Luca Guadagnino, actor Armie Hammer, actor Michael Stuhlbarg, actor Timothee Chalamet and editor Walter Fasano pose for a portrait to promote the film, "Call Me By Your Name", during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film is based on the novel by Andre Aciman. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)

Clockwise from left: Director Luca Guadagnino, actor Armie Hammer, actor Michael Stuhlbarg, actor Timothee Chalamet and editor Walter Fasano pose for a portrait to promote the film, "Call Me By Your Name", during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film is based on the novel by Andre Aciman. (Photo by Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP, File)

Taylor Jewell/Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP

Based on a novel by Andre Aciman, Call Me by Your Name isn't a movie about guilt, shame, tragedy or intolerance; if you want such things you'll have to bring your own. It isn't Brokeback Mountain goes to Italy. It's a piercing glimpse of a young man's bright, confounding first love, the kind of love that brings disorientation and rhapsody. It makes a statement by not making a statement.

You won't find a better-acted movie this year. Chalamet and Hammer show us what blossoming emotions look and feel like, how rationality and words fail to express the most important things. (Chalamet, a 21-year-old New Yorker, has had a breakout year, between Call Me, Lady Bird and the upcoming Hostiles). Hammer, who broke out as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, gets more assured with every performance; watching him here I kept thinking he would have been a top-of-the-marquee movie star during Hollywood's golden age. He has the easy charm, the quickness and the jawline of a timeless matinee idol.

For all of that, it's Stuhlbarg who steals the movie with a late monologue directed at his heartbroken son. The scene is written and acted with a deep sense of empathy and wisdom, an acknowledgement that sadness is as much a part of life as joy, that it should never be numbed or smothered. Call Me by Your Name reminds us to live is to hurt. It is also to love.

Call Me By Your Name (A-)

R (for sexual content, nudity and some language).  132 minutes. At the Dallas and Plano Angelikas. 

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