Ah, first love. Holds a special place in our hearts, doesn’t it. Very romanticized view of something that probably ended very painfully for at least one of the parties. Nevertheless, many a film has been concerned with this portion of our lives. A universal experience, so everyone can relate. As such the story transports you to another time. A time where you felt something similar to what Elio and Oliver are going through. A beautiful film experience.
In the gorgeous countryside of northern Italy during the summer of 1983, 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet – Lady Bird, Interstellar) expects that he will have the same type of summer that he has had for many a year. He expects he will spend it swimming with his friends, smoking cigarettes, riding around on his bicycle, playing piano and writing music, and reading a lot. That all happens, but what he has not expected is the insertion of his archaeologist father’s (Michael Stuhlbarg – The Shape of Water, A Serious Man) annual summer intern, Oliver (Armie Hammer – The Social Network, The Lone Ranger), into it all.
Oliver is much older than Elio, but the attraction between the two is almost instantaneous. Elio is very mature for his age. He has been shown the way towards adulthood by his academically oriented parents. Well-spoken, intelligent and well-read, Elio is not your typical teenager. For God’s sake, he speaks English, Italian and French! With all that intelligence Elio is still in many ways a 17-year-old. In regards to love he woefully inexperienced.
Though both seem to be involved with others in the beginning. Oliver with Elio’s friend Chiara (Victoire Du Bois – The Family, Mal de Pierres) and Elio with Marzia (Esther Garrel). For Elio and Marzia it is their first experience with sex. Despite this and their age difference, it seems inevitable that the two will get together. As inevitable as the approaching end of summer.
Based on the novel by Andre Aciman, Call Me By Your Name is in every moment a delight. Though the beginning is on the plodding side you begin to realize that, as it goes on, the pacing is an important part of the package. The tone of the film is beautifully established and maintained by director Luca Guadagnino (The Protagonists, I An Love). He allows the landscape and colours to add to the layers of the story; almost like the visuals are characters. The film unfurls itself like a warm summer day in rural Italy.
A large part of the film is its erotic nature. As beautiful is the villa, water and landscapes are, so are the people involved. Just like the ancient Greek and Roman statues that Elio’s father uncovers and studies are, so are Oliver and Elio. Their bodies are often on display as a shirt seems totally not necessary in this environment. Long silent shots focusing on Elio’s hairless, lithe body happen. All this succeeds in building up the sexual tension that is occurring between the two males. Once they succumb to their feelings it becomes a celebration of each other’s bodies. Each loving the other’s body. Is it love or just desire? That is for us to sort out.
Chalamet emerges from the film as the star. He announces with great flair the talent he possesses. Portraying the intelligence, horniness and vulnerability of Elio seems easy for him. He is an astute and sensitive actor with a talent beyond his years (22). A well-earned Oscar nomination.
The strongest part of the film is how it captures and encapsulates a time (the 80s) and a time in the characters’ lives. It causes, especially due to the late film discussion between Elio and his father, you to think about love, opportunity, time, and decisions we make. Carpe diem!