Call Me By Your Name” doesn’t try to be anything more, or less, than beautiful. Make no mistake, though, that does not mean this movie is superficial or shallow in any way. Rather, it is a wonderfully in-depth exploration of all the things that make human beings happy. It is a movie, based on André Aciman’ novel by the same name, about summer, about golden fields, about rivers at sunset, about family, about friendship, and more than anything, about love.
Love is at the center of every shot in this film. From the very first moment the film’s two main characters meet, they are dancing around their feelings for one another. It almost seems like love is a character in itself, an entity trailing behind precocious, curly-haired Elio (played by Timothee Chalamet) and the striking, impossibly huge presence of Oliver (Armie Hammer) as they try to navigate their shared living situation in Elio’s family villa (where Oliver is a visiting grad student working a internship for the summer).
At times, love seems like the antagonist of the story. It’s 1983, and though it is never directly addressed, a gay love affair is hardly something one can be open about. Neither boy feels like their passion for one another could lead to anything good. For the viewer, it’s infuriating. They are like magnets- everytime they are on the same page, they repel themselves away from one another. So when they finally allow themselves to be together, the result is an ecstatic, sublime, gorgeous moment that seems impossibly real, a credit to both Chalamet and Hammer’s incredible chemistry and immersive performances and to director Luca Guadagnino’s masterful cinematography.
Guadagnino’s decision to shoot the entirety of the film in his hometown pays off in every shot. It’s clear the director has a intimate knowledge of the landscape around him and knows exactly at what angle and lighting to show everything in order to show its beauty. Sufjan Stevens’ score perfectly highlight the pairs growing love. In the long gaps in dialogue as Elio and Oliver bike through the countryside, his vulnerable voice and fluttering piano voice what they cannot (or, what they don’t want to say). It all makes for a paradise-like world, but a realistic paradise, familiar to everyone who’s ever wandered around on a summer day.
As their relationship develops Elio takes on a habit of melting into Oliver with every embrace, burying his head into his chest as if he’s becoming more of a part of him with each passing day. However, their inevitable separation hangs over it all. There are no illusions that they have an eternity together waiting for them, but it still isn’t any easier for either the characters or the viewer when things definitively end between them. Thankfully, Elios father (portrayed wonderfully by Michael Stuhlberg) pulls off the role of a perceptive and compassionate intellectual without falling to a cliche. He finally addresses the subject of his son’s affair in a tear jerking monologue between the two men, demonstrating with unconditional love and grace how to comfort a heartbroken child. “But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”, he says.
The film closes with a masterful shot of Elio staring into the fireplace, his face contorting as he heeds his father’s advice and lets his emotions pour over him, and the viewer does the same. The past summer plays through his mind, and Elio finally allows himself to feel everything. Though it isn’t easy, it’s worth it.
“Call Me By Your Name” is more than just a coming out story. It’s a beautiful swoon of a romance, a dramatic adventure between two souls, and it’s very, very real.
PHOTO COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS