Call Me by Your Name, released in 2017 to rave reviews, brings highly intense emotion and artistic presentation to the general public. Following 17-year old Elio Perlman, an American vacationing in 1980s Italy with his father (a university professor) and mother, the film handles the theme of teen romance in a decidedly unique manner. Upon the arrival of his father’s academic assistant, Oliver, Elio embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. After sparking a romantic endeavor with Oliver, the two share a jubilant period of mutual experience and intimacy over the course of a summer. Elio undergoes excitement, heartbreak, and elation throughout the course of the season, and is ultimately left to draw conclusions and struggle with demons that truly touch the viewer.
Director Luca Guadagnino’s treatment of this emotionally tumultuous journey is masterful, making use of simplicity in form to lend even more gravity to the film. Performances from Timothée Chalamet (Elio) and Armie Hammer (Oliver) are especially adept at demonstrating the wisdom of simplistic cinematography, as the lack of unnecessary close-ups allows the viewer to truly absorb the chemistry between the actors. Also on display is the breathtaking northern Italian countryside, where all filming for Call Me by Your Name took place at the direction of Guadagnino. Finally, unassuming cinematography leaves the viewer to admire the costumes, which combine vintage 80s flair with various modern refinements. Original compositions by Sufjan Stevens feature prominently in the soundtrack, and their simultaneously melancholic and effortless tone helps us to understand the emotions present on-screen. In the final scene (if you’ve seen the film, you know which one I’m talking about), the audience is forced to consider the implications of unfolding events just as Elio does.
Although the film is absolutely visually stunning, the aforementioned emotional journey endured by Elio shines through as the ultimate centerpiece of the work. We see a young man, confident in his intellect and abilities, forced to come to terms with a part of himself formerly unbeknownst to him. Interestingly, Elio and Oliver are shielded from the usual struggles faced by LGBT characters by their relative isolation, which leaves them to vault over internal hurdles rather than face societal backlash. Perfectly articulated by Elio’s father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) near the conclusion of the film, the lesson to be gleaned from the film is that we must not suppress heartache, but we must embrace it alongside the joy felt through our experiences as a part of life. The title refers to the second truth uncovered by Elio, that through love we ultimately learn more about ourselves and we absorb a part of each other in the process.
This is the truly unique aspect of the film as a whole. Alongside the visual beauty and laudable performances, the emotional gravity that the characters face in the absence of tragedy is worth commendation in itself. Love, Call Me by Your Name powerfully asserts, is a sometimes fleeting opportunity for self-discovery and self-realization, regardless of sexuality.