“Call me by your name, and I’ll call you by mine.” This quote alone has the emotional intensity to sum up all two hours and twelve minutes of the Academy Award nominated film, “Call Me by Your Name.”
Directed by Luca Guadagnino and based on the novel by André Aciman, the film captures the sensuality of an oftentimes melancholy summer relationship between 17-year-old Elio, portrayed by up and coming actor Timotheè Chalamet (“Lady Bird,” “Interstellar”), and his father’s lab assistant, 24-year-old Oliver, portrayed by film veteran Armie Hammer (“The Social Network,” “The Lone Ranger”).
Set in the picturesque location of Italy in 1983, the cinematography and overall aesthetic of the film could not be more visually pleasing. Watching Elio and Oliver bicycle through the beautiful streets of Italy is a dream, and even just watching the two and Elio’s family sit together and eat outside of their house is a vivid image that entrances the viewer.
The plot of film follows piano prodigy and bibliophile Elio, as his father hires an American graduate student named Oliver to help in his archeology profession. Elio struggles with his growing feelings towards Oliver, while coming into his own sexuality and identity as everyone does at the ripe age of seventeen.
The first half of the film is certainly a slow ride, building up both the romantic and sexual tension between the two leads. Whilst Elio is sorting through his feelings towards Oliver, he is also struggling to identify how he feels towards Marzia, a female friend of his.
Elio’s internal sexual identity struggle is one of the aspects that makes this film so intriguing. While the media is quick to label this film as a ‘gay movie,’ “Call Me by Your Name” certainly distances itself far away from the stereotypical archetypes that ‘gay movies’ find themselves attached to. The focus of the film is not on the ‘triumphant coming out of a struggling teen.’ Rather, the film sets its focus on Elio and Oliver as two humans who find that they have a connection, without having to place a pesky label on it.
The only labels that Elio and Oliver find themselves attached to, in fact, are each other’s names.
When Elio and Oliver fully embrace their budding romance, the film really picks up the pace. From a sensual encounter with a peach, to the numerous meetings by Elio’s secret swimming hole, Elio and Oliver’s characters are fully brought to life by the natural acting done by Chalamet and Hammer.
The age gap between the two, seven years to be exact, has been heavily discussed in the public. In the film, neither Oliver nor Elio are ridiculed for it. In fact, there is an air of acceptance brought on by Elio’s parents. A monologue about the importance of love and loss from Elio’s father towards the film’s conclusion really encapsulates the coming of age themes of the film.
“Call Me by Your Name” hits every mark on the head. From the cinematography, the acting, and even the harmonious soundtrack that underscores each scene, each aspect comes together to create a coming of age story that transcends the time period it is set in. While your taste for peaches may be diminished by the end of the film, you’d have to be made of stone to not leave the theater with tear-stained cheeks and a tugging at your heartstrings.