If I were to choose one word to describe this film, it would have to be ‘emotive’. Call Me by Your Name, based on the novel by André Aciman, sets its scene in the summer of 1983 in a tranquil and familial setting of Italy, in which Elio, the son of a professor, is presented as a loving son and a keen musician. Yet, such tranquillity is swiftly disturbed upon the arrival of a boisterous and loud American student, Oliver. Thus begins the comic juxtaposition of the obnoxious American tourist and the cultured and homely European setting, conforming so strongly to the stereotyped American tourist that Oliver even boasts an impressive set of tan lines.
Elio is primarily presented as the stereotypical angsty teenager, as he spends his days contemplating his life, passionately transcribing music and toying with the emotions of the young ladies. Yet, the arrival of Oliver marks the beginning of a turbulent relationship centred around a mutual irritation of one and other that subsequently creates a fascination, that turns to a sexual desire. One of the most powerful aspects of this film was seeing the transformation of both of the boys, as Elio’s confrontational exterior is eliminated, similarly as the condescension of Oliver slowly disappears as he becomes more comfortable with Elio. This transformation outlines Elio’s transition into an adult, as in one scene he will be smoking and drinking, while in the next he lies with his head in his mother’s lap as she reads him French love stories. Throughout the film the choice of the classical music adds to the sense of this being a classic summer love story, yet also plays to Elio’s musical talents, and hence helps to ground the piece in its romantic setting.
Call Me by Your Name clearly presents the overwhelming sexual and emotional urges of Elio, through both his relationship with Marzia and Oliver, yet the film also portrays his sense of guilt over such sexual urges as he cries into the lap of Oliver after a passionate and relatively uncomfortable scene with a peach. Following the first kiss of Oliver and Elio, Oliver assures Elio, and arguably himself, that they “haven’t done anything to be ashamed of” at which point the importance of both boys’ Jewish faith is called into question. The slow movement of the hot European town is similarly mimicked by the slow moving narrative, as the film largely consists of the leisurely cycling of the boys, or Elio lying waiting for Oliver, an aspect of this film that will either annoy the spectator or reinforce the sense of a tranquil summer romance.
Oliver’s departure can be seen as the climatic point of the intense emotion that this film conjures in every spectator, as the once precocious teenager Elio cries into the phone as he begs his mother to come and pick him up. This intensity of feeling should not be dismissed or trivialised as teenage melodrama, but instead the performance of Timothée Chalamet presents a coming-of-age heartbreak that resonates with the audience, as he resorts to the comfort of his parents. An iconic scene depicts Elio’s confession of his feelings to his father, in which his total acceptance, understanding and unconditional support will undoubtedly appeal to the audience of 2017, in this moment of untainted honesty between father and son.
As the title suggests, Call Me by Your Name emphasises a quest for his own identity as Elio comes to terms with the extent of his emotion, as the film graphically explores the core of human emotion and romance through both his overtly affectionate character, and his inner guilt and disarray. Leaving the cinema, every spectator will undoubtedly be captured by the poignant emotion of this film, in which the internal conflicts of the “angsty” teenage boy are intertwined with the romantic Italian setting and the comic antics of the caricatured American.
– Hattie Hansford
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