Call Me By Your Name
dir. Luca Guadagnino
Released Jan. 19, 2018
In Luca Guadagnino’s film “Call Me By Your Name,” rather than being ripped into a parallel world of fantasticism and adventure you are taken gently by the hand and lead into an elegant and sensual land of “somewhere in Northern Italy.” Guadagnino creates a landscape of anywhere but nowhere, presenting visuals of a small Italian town with rolling landscapes of orchards and mountain vistas, to ancient Roman architecture and exquisite interiors laden with the haute culture the characters exist in. The characters and landscape are enveloped by music that encapsulates the elegant and passionate essence of the movie, featuring striking piano pieces as well as haunting songs from singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.
The film is based off of the 2007 novel by André Aciman, the story of Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), a young American-Italian, and his love affair with abroad grad-student Oliver (Armie Hammer). Elio lives with his mother (Amira Casar) and father (an excellent Michael Stuhlburg) in northern Italy. Elio’s Father, a professor of Greco-Roman history and culture, takes on a student every summer to work with and provide home for–with this summer being Oliver.
The drama of “Call Me By Your Name” is soft and subtle, the rise of the tide surrounding you and taking you out to sea. The love between Elio and Oliver begins at a distance, with small touches and stares. The cover of Oliver’s perceived “American casualness,” and Elio’s shyness of being young and inexperienced keeps the two far enough away to maintain an almost-friendship. Timothée Chalamet’s performance as Elio is astounding, capturing a young man with an old soul in a heartfelt, earnest, wise beyond his years but young “in the ways that matter” way, as delivered in a scene in which Elio stares at Oliver with a World War I memorial separating them. Elio embodies youth and all the intensities that come with it, and surprisingly, for a film featuring gay love, he lacks the shame typically presented in media–especially set in the 1980s. Elio is the ultimate pursuer of the relationship, with Oliver being the more reserved and cautious character, which may hint at his past and wiseness as a gay man living in America. Elio is unburdened by shame when he fully realizes his attraction to Oliver. He simply knows what he desires, and he pursues it.
While the drama is subtle, one aspect that is blatantly clear is the love-letter quality the film presents. Evident in the aesthetics and sensory quality, this creates a romantic film that breathes rose-scented air into a genre that desperately needs it. The film is not a sad one, more of a bittersweet memory of first love and how fear and the desire for normalcy can tear it down. To take a clear message away from the film would contradict the intent; love is mysterious, complicated and brings humans to experience emotions they will never fully comprehend–no matter how many songs they compose, paintings they create, or poems they write– and that’s the magnificent beauty of it all.
This film and this genre required a director, and everyone involved, to truly and unabashedly be in love with love. No matter one’s gender or sexual orientation “Call Me By Your Name” drips with the passion, sensuality, awkwardness and heartbreak of first love. Sufjan Stevens song “Visions of Gideon” lulls over an intimate long shot of Timothée Chalamet, his face pained yet accepting as he stares into the fire, the light flickers over him, illuminating his tear-filled eyes as your heart aches with him.