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Call Me By Your Name Is The Love Story You Need To See

January 6, 2018

 Oliver (Armie Hammer) and Elio (Timothée Chalamet) in Crema, Lombardy.Image courtesy of Sony Classics

Call Me By Your Name is the stunning film adaptation of the acclaimed 2007 novel by American writer André Aciman, that is much loved within the LGBT community and celebrated as a universally accessible modern classic. Since the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Call Me By Your Name has had critics raving, audiences sobbing and award nominations stacking up.


The screenplay was written by James Ivory (A Room With A View) and directed by openly gay Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who moved the location from coastal Liguria to his hometown of Crema, in Northern Italy.


Guadagnino considers the film to be the third in his trilogy about passion and desire, alongside I Am Love and A Bigger Splash, with this one exploring the universal theme of first love.

 

Elio (Timothée Chalamet) Image Courtesy of Sony Classics

It’s the summer of 1983 and 24-year-old American graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) comes to stay with Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), his wife Annella (Amira Cassar) and their 17 year old son Elio (Timothée Chalamet), at their 17th century villa in the Italian countryside. He’s there for six weeks to work as the summer intern for Professor Perlman, who specialises in Greco-Roman culture.


The intellectual, multi-lingual Perlman’s have produced a prodigiously talented child. Elio shares his parents love of literature, transposes classical music, plays the guitar and piano and speaks three languages. He spends part of his days flirting with his friend Marzia and with the handsome and aloof Oliver, unsure of how to satisfy the sexual urges he’s experiencing.


The film perfectly captures the summer in northern Italy, with the Perlman’s embracing the slowness and sensuality of country life. They read and listen to music, invite people over to enjoy languid meals al fresco, while Elio and his friends ride their bikes, swim in the lakes, laze by the pool, go dancing and enjoy midnight swims.


Eroticism and sensuality are everywhere in the movie. “There’s not a straight line in any of these statues; they’re all curved, as if daring you to desire them,” Professor Perlman tells Oliver as they peruse ancient sculptures glorifying the masculine form.


Elio and Oliver's love affair takes it’s time to unfold, with Elio experiencing all of the confusion, trepidation and unwieldy passion you’d expect from a young man, while Oliver’s breezy confidence and well-disciplined masculinity hide his struggles with his own carnal desires.

 

 

Elio (Timothée Chalamet) Image Courtesy of Sony Classics

The languid pace of the movie intensifies its sensuality and builds the desire between the men, making the film a deeply erotic experience for the audience. The famous peach scene reveals Elio’s intense passions and his difficulty finding an outlet for them, his deep vulnerability and the emotions that are overwhelming him. It also brings the audience into the heart of the relationship, opening up the older, brasher, more assured Oliver and revealing his deep tenderness and protective instincts.


The external forces placing obstacles in the lovers way are only hinted at. Both characters are Jewish, not such a big deal for Elio, but a contributing factor to Oliver's inability to openly experience his sexuality. While Elio’s bohemian parents urge him to follow his passions and support him in exploring his relationship with Oliver, 1983 is in the midst of the AIDS epidemic in the US, a time of deep fear and homophobia, to which Oliver is set to return.


Guadagnino wanted to deliver “a tender love story that affects an audience in an uplifting way,” to be experienced “like a box of chocolates,” and he succeeded. This is a beautiful, deeply moving story about young love. These two people connect so deeply that they almost flow through each other’s veins, living on inside each other long after Oliver leaves. And it’s a story of profound loss, because when you love that deeply, heartbreak inevitably follows.

 

The broader themes about the hardships faced by gay or bisexual men in the ‘70s and early ‘80s and the bravery required for gay people to live their truth are experienced through Elio’s father in a touchingly supportive and wise speech towards the film’s end. He also delivers the story's powerful message that life needs to be lived honestly and fully.

 

"How you live your life is your business. Remember, our hearts and bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it your heart is worn out, and as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it."


“If you’re lucky enough to feel something deeply, even if it hurts, don’t push it away,” he says. “What a waste to feel something beautiful and then to try to pretend like it didn’t happen.”

 

 

 

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