Set in 1983, Call Me By Your Name tells an uncomfortable story, one made all the more so by the news dominating the headlines at this very moment. Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is in Italy with his father, a prominent professor on a research trip. Elio is a bright and outgoing 17- year-old who spends his time in a variety of intellectual pursuits, as well as hanging out with is friend Marzia (Esther Garell).
Joining them on the trip is Oliver (Armie Hammer), the professor’s research assistant. Oliver and Elio become fast friends and bond over shared backgrounds and interests. Eventually that turns into something else as the closeness with Oliver seems to bring Elio’s own sexuality and identity more to the forefront. The seven years between them – Oliver is 24 – remains a problem, though, given that Elio is still young and figuring out who he is.
The first and only poster was pretty simple, just showing Elio and Oliver sitting together and looking up to the clear blue sky, the younger’s head resting on the shoulder of the older’s. Aside from that p, oto the primary element is all the quotes from early screenings conveying how incredible the movie is.
The first trailer, which debuted on Vulture, opens by introducing us to Elio, who soon meets the visiting American Oliver. The boy offers to show him around and they begin to hang out more, Elio both attracted to the mature Oliver and his girlfriend Esther. Things progress on both fronts and Elio isn’t sure what to do.
The goal here is to offer the audience the barest outline of the story, instead focusing on the attitude and emotions of the characters. Elio is, of course, the primary focus and we see him go through all the usual stages of doubt and insecurity that are common with his age. This is designed to show everyone what festival goers were buzzing about and succeeds on that front.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website opens with the trailer playing against a cropped version of the key art. Once that’s over the past has links to get tickets as well as for the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles Sony Classics has created.
Scroll down the page or use the menu on the right and the first section you come across is the “Synopsis,” which has a brief writeup of the story, followed by “Cast” and then “Filmmakers,” both of which feature bios and histories of those involved in making the movie.
The “Gallery” has 14 stills from the production. There’s a section for “Reviews” but you can also read pull quotes from select reviews scattered throughout the site in the breaks between sections. Finally, “Links” has links to the source novel, the soundtrack and the Facebook page.
One social media promotion in particular didn’t go over very well. The studio’s UK account Tweeted an image of Elio and Marzia looking fondly at each other with copy touting the intensity of the romance in the story. The implication being that this is the romance that’s depicted and not the one between Elio and Oliver.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There didn’t seem to be any TV advertising done but there was this 30-second spot shared by Landmark Theaters that hits a coupe of the high points in terms of the angst being shared, the beautiful locations of the story and the dynamic between at least some of the characters. While I didn’t see any, I’m sure some online advertising was done as well, particularly in the select markets the film opens in this weekend.
Media and Publicity
The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. A first look still from the movie came out around that same time. It was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics before that screening, which garnered almost universal praise and a whole cottage industry of positive word-of-mouth. Sony then scheduled it to screen at the New York Film Festival. It also screened on the opening night of the Toronto Film Festival, where it continued racking up significant positive buzz.
A substantial profile of Hammer allowed the actor to talk about the unexpected and unconventional path his career has taken, his initial reaction to reading the script for this movie and much more. That was also the focus of this profile which talked about his career and personal life and how despite a series of setbacks on both fronts, this seems to be the year things are coming together for him.
There was also attention paid to Chalamet, who’s having quite the year himself in both this movie and the recent indie smash Lady Bird. In that extended interview he talks about how he’s gotten to this point in his career along with how he balances the personal and professional.
Hammer did some publicity and media rounds, as did Chalamet, to talk up the movie. There was even a profile of the sets of the film and how the designer recreated a very specific look for the story.
Sony has put together a nice campaign for the movie that emphasizes not only the emotions felt by Elio and Oliver but, of course, the gorgeous locations in which the story takes place. This *looks* like a high-end art film that is going to have limited appeal in the mainstream audience. At a time when not only homophobia but nativism and anti-intellectualism are all rampant, making a movie about two gay men visiting Italy because of their work or relation to a history professor means some people will reject the story on its face.
To counter that there’s been a strong word of mouth campaign resulting from festival screenings that has sold the movie to the niche audience it seems meant to reach and resonate with. The focus on Hammer is particularly notable since for a few years now Hollywood has tried to turn him into a marquee star but here he’s clearly more comfortable in the role of character actor, presenting a more human front when selling the film as opposed to being overshadowed by the stunts and more.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.