Oliver (Hammer) is a graduate student who has arrived ("somewhere") in Northern Italy to study under Stuhlbarg's professor in the summer of 1983. His confidence and good looks are a hit with the local women and also Stuhlbarg's teenage son, Elio (Chalament). Over the course of the summer Oliver and Elio develop a strong friendship that slowly turns into something altogether deeper…
Director Luca Guadagnino (whose remake of Suspira is ready to be rolled out) likes stories that take their sweet time to reach their climax, as his most famous outings I Am Love and A Bigger Splash will testify. It might be worth it in the end but in the interim there's a lot of hanging around by the pool and under apricot trees, bike rides into town, discussions over breakfast and dinner, reading books and listening to music.
For large stretches here even the slow burning attraction between Hammer and Chalament is kept on the back boiler; the viewer can even doubt if there’s anything between them with the two both enjoying dalliances with Chiara (Victoire Du Bois) and Marzia (Esther Garrel) respectively. Call Me By Your Name doesn't seem to care what romance stories are supposed to do and is altogether stronger for it.
While this might frustrate an impatient audience Guadagnino is steadfast in his determination to develop the romance as naturally as possible. We're deep into the second act before Elio even hints that this is something more than just friendship, which is immediately rebuked by Hammer who warns the boy, "We can’t talk about these things." Guadagnino wants the outpouring of emotions that do eventually come to be earned. And it certainly does that.
Both Hammer and newcomer Chalamet are on the same page; the former (currently enjoying roles in more arthouse films) keeping things light and breezy, the latter unsure if what he is feeling is real/allowed.
The slow pacing can be its undoing at times, however. While one appreciates the naturalistic approach Guadagnino takes the director then seems reluctant to call time, dragging some scenes out beyond their use and adding epilogue after epilogue; there are at least three moments when it looked like the credits will roll but the director insists on adding scene whose importance is questionable.
A better follow up to I Am Love than A Bigger Splash was.