“Thanks to his parents’ considerable influence, Elio’s life is one full of art and culture, not to mention a liberal attitude towards life in general.”
Watching Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name instantly had me casting my mind back to Abdellatif Kechiche’s 2013 masterpiece, Blue is the Warmest Colour, and whilst the two films stand at polar opposite ends of the human sexuality spectrum, the similarities between them are nevertheless plentiful and obvious. Most notably, both films have rightly been lavished with much deserved praise since their respective releases.
Set in the dreamy tranquility of small village life in 1980’s Italian Lombardy, Call Me By Your Name – based upon an acclaimed André Aciman novel – tells of the sexual awakening of seventeen-year-old Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), whose leisurely summer spent engrossed in his favourite pastimes – namely reading, swimming and transcribing music – is disrupted by the arrival of Oliver (Armie Hammer), a confident and charming American intern who has travelled to Italy in order to spend the summer months helping Elio’s father – a Professor in Greco-Roman studies, played by Michael Stuhlbarg.
Thanks to his parents’ considerable influence, Elio’s life is one full of art and culture, not to mention a liberal attitude towards life in general. Though seemingly happy enough idling his holiday away flirting with local girl and good friend, Marzia (a sweet turn by Esther Garrel), the tall American’s arrival on the scene is something of a head turner for young Elio, in a manner that he has never experienced before, and it soon puts into perspective exactly what his dalliances with Marzia had been – nothing but the horny fumblings of an inexperienced teenager.
Before long Elio and Oliver are getting to know each other better through their shared appreciation of summer outdoor pursuits, and in doing so, Elio is soon awakened to the true nature of his own sexuality.
But such carefree unstructured halcyon days they never last, and come summer’s end, Elio may well have experienced the giddy rush of first love, but must also face the crushing inevitability of heartbreak.
In some ways, Call Me By Your Name seems to exist in a sort of dreamy alternative reality. Exquisitely shot, it captures quite beautifully those sun-drenched peaceful, seductive Northern Italian summers when time and schedule bend and flex indeterminately and are of little importance. For Elio these are the unforgettable times in which initial shy lingering glances magically transform into steamy embraces and where new ‘innovative’ uses are found for the ripest of low-hanging orchard fruits!
In Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, Guadagnino’s film boasts two actors demonstrating the most natural of on-screen chemistry, and whose burgeoning relationship develops into something intense and crucially, thoroughly believable.
Whether one connects fully with the subject matter of Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age drama or on just a fleetingly curious level, it is indisputable that Call me by your Name is a film whose soulful illustration of awakening love, passion and desire is one that effortlessly crosses all barriers and divides.