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8 December 2017

‘Call Me By Your Name’: A tender evocation of young love and developing sexuality - Review

Based on the eponymous 2007 novel by author André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name beautifully depicts the brief but fervent romance between two young men whilst exploring issues of sexuality, adolescence, and heartbreak.

Set against the backdrop of the Italian countryside in 1983, seventeen-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is spending his summer with his parents in their tranquil villa, reading books, transcribing music, swimming in the lake, and waiting for summer to be over. The languid teenager drifts through his holidays alone, sometimes socialising with friends or his affectionate parents, but primarily keeping to his own devices. That is until his indifference is interrupted by the arrival of Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome American student who is set to study under the wing of Elio’s professor father for the next six weeks. Oliver, an exuberant, brash vision of rugged masculinity is frustratingly enigmatic to the introspective Elio. He’s unapologetically bold in every physical manner yet impossible to read. The film is generous in allowing the relationship between its two protagonists to develop; imbued with lingering stares, subtle touches, and an overwhelming sense of first-love nervousness. It is not until around the film’s midpoint that the lovers finally kiss. Amid the sun-drenched lazy days in the Italian countryside, the two young men slowly enter a vibrant love affair, giving Elio a chance to explore his developing bisexuality and Oliver to safely submit to his.

Director, Luca Guadagnino, is known for his scintillating aesthetics, providing an undoubtable rawness and life to his films, and Call Me by Your Name is no exception. An encapsulating display of tender emotions and first heartbreak, the film is imbued with a warmth which evokes the hazy feeling of being in love. The film caresses you with brilliant visuals, swirling colour and light; the saturated tones of orange, reds, and luscious greenery vibrantly paints an image of a beautiful Italian summer. Call Me by Your Name’s visuals are expertly interwoven and synchronised with its sound. Not only does music play a vital role in the characterisation of Elio but it also serves to accompany the sentiment of the film, aided wonderfully by the Sufjan Stevens penned tracks that accompany some of the film’s most poignant scenes. After hearing ‘Visions of Gideon’ for the first time, you will never be able to listen to it again without it bringing a tear to your eye.

But the film’s obvious beauty is not for nothing, there is meaning to be found in absolutely every shot and sound in Call Me by Your Name. Guadagnino once stated to the New York Times that he: “hated the concept of beauty for the sake of it. It is overrated.” This is primarily evident in the presentation of the human body; more intimate scenes depicted the sensuous immediacy of the physical form. The film has no reservations about reflecting the realness of the human body. The characters are constantly and visibly sweating, no human function is shied away from — every hitched breath is heard, every kiss is deeply intimate. These are carnal specimens with provocative beauty akin to that of the classical statues of which Oliver studies. The actors’ closeness is tangible, every encounter of flesh is documented (if sometimes implicitly) – even small caresses of the face and hands or the playing of feet- and every meal seems tangible and inviting. The images just seem intimately real, as if you yourself could just reach out and grab an apricot or a peach to enjoy with the characters.

You truly feel this movie; every kiss, every taste, every delicate touch, every warm ray of Italian sunshine. It’s simply intoxicating, leaving you yearning for a summer of love, much like Elio.