I’ve heard people ask “What’s the big deal?” in regards to Luca Guadagnino’s most recent film Call Me By Your Name. I realize this isn’t the first time we’ve been down the film-genre road which expresses two outwardly “heterosexual” men who end up falling in love. The most famous example, of course, would be 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. However, Call Me By Your Name feels very different, as if it’s a world still unscathed. Every character is so intricately plucked and placed onto the most beautiful settings of Southern Italy that you forget you paid admission to be there. The rivers and winding roads create a deeply vibrant environment that pushes 17- year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and doctoral student Oliver (Armie Hammer) ultimately together.
Before viewing, I assumed Call Me By Your Name to be a typical unconventional love story. They meet, they give in to one another and once in bliss, would be pulled apart by an outside element such as begrudging parents or homosexual stigma. In this film though, it’s not about homophobia or the age gap as much as it’s about pure sheer connection. Connection that could care less about sex or age, because it’s magnetism is too strong to shoe away like we do to fruit flies. It’s about the painful understanding that after six weeks, their connection will be something to keep closely within themselves. That after six weeks, good things must come to an end to essentially remain whole.
Oliver is an intelligent and charming man, who at no time sees Elios as just a smooth-faced boy-toy. Rather, he is fearful of hurting Elio, mentally aware of his effects, he tries best to keep calm waters within the angst and fear inside them both. At first, he very well may have, but by the end… he isn’t interested in being found out because they each see one another for everything that they are. Elio, a mentally and physically beautiful boy, captivates with his actions and humorous sarcasm while also being acutely knowledgeable. As a young adult, he wears shades and smokes cigarettes trying hard to “play it cool”, whilst dealing with an immense discovery of raw emotion.
Elio symbolizes the journey of being an adolescent and having your “first times”- First sexual experience, first love and first heartache. Leaning into his heterosexual desire with Marzia (Esther Garrel) he comes to terms with wanting his sexual desire known to Oliver. The two main characters do struggle with their lust for each other, but there is never judgement bestowed upon them from within their environment. Elio and his parent’s are an unorthodox, well-educated family from the upper class, and animosity is never present. Instead, there’s considerable liveliness in how they share insight.
Many of the film’s characters take their companionship’s as beautifully bowed- wrapped gifts, that can be re-wrapped, entrusting the ability to remain serene in any scenario. A perfect example of such, would be when Marzia consoles Elio when returning from his last trip with Oliver. Deserving to feel acrimonious, she simply comes to the conclusion that having Elio in her life is better…than to not have him at all. The love she feels for this boy at this time in her life, is the love he will subsequently feel for Oliver. So, when Elio and his family return to their estate in Northern Italy for Christmas, he holds the phone tightly to his face. As close to the phone as he can, calling Oliver by his name and Oliver by his. Elio stares into the fireplace, his face portraying anger, sorrow and then a small, but meaningful moment of happiness. Giving Oliver a silent message of thankfulness at the opportunity very few get to have.
Contributed By Amanda Nova