“Call Me By Your Name” is a romance ahead of its time

“Call Me By Your Name” is a compelling story about a gay relationship in a difficult and complex time for same-sex couples. Photo by Sony Images
Hope Schreiner

Based on André Aciman‘s novel of the same name, “Call Me By Your Name” takes place in northern Italy in 1983. It follows precocious and reserved 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) as he grows and matures, particularly in his sexuality. When 24-year-old American university professor Oliver (Armie Hammer), comes to stay with Elio’s family for the summer to work on his manuscript, both of their lives change dramatically.

There are many things about this film that make it beautifully complex, one being character development. It is easy to see each character’s growth throughout the film, particularly Elio’s and Oliver’s. At first, Elio isn’t too thrilled about Oliver’s presence. In fact, he is almost hostile. On the other hand, Oliver is casual and confident around Elio, calling him “buddy,” “pal” and “man.” He appears to ignore Elio and brush off his presence.

As the film progresses, Oliver comes off as more of a ladies man. He is sensual, forward and playful, which is a stark contrast to Elio who is innocent, intelligent and subtle. However, Elio also has his fair share of female attention as he explores his budding sexuality with a young woman named Marzia. Both Oliver and Elio appear to be hiding who they truly are for a good portion of the film.

Gradually, Elio begins to experiment with his sexuality, challenging Oliver to do the same. While most would describe this film as being about two gay men realizing their love for each other, it is far more complicated than that. Prior to this, Elio hadn’t had much experience with intimacy, so when we meet him, he feels trapped within himself, hesitant to reach out.

Since the story is told primarily through Elio’s perspective, it is difficult to know where Oliver stands and what his past was like, but through his hesitancy to talk about “those kinds of things” as he says, we can infer that he may be just as inexperienced as Elio. He comes off as showy and rather dislikeable at first because of the way he dismisses Elio’s affection. He slowly begins to change, but in the end, he struggles to shut out what society thinks of him.

Because of these things, this film is less about two gay men and more about coming to terms with and accepting who you really are. It’s about being brave enough to live your life the way you want regardless of society’s judgmental eyes. Through beautiful acting from both Chalamet and Ham-mer, the raw emotion that so often accompanies love and self-exploration can be seen.

There are many stunning close up shots in this film that showcase the beautiful language of the hu-man body. In the beginning, there are more wide shots and far off glances, but as the film progresses the shots get closer and closer

The intimate scenes between the two lovers are so close that they feel almost invasive, as if the viewer is intruding on the scene.

The music in this film only adds to the beauty and simplicity of it. Each song feels handpicked to fit the scene it accompanies. While some songs mimic the playful and upbeat tone, others enhance the intimacy of the moment with soft strings and piano melodies.

It is easy to see how this film was nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, including best motion picture—drama, best actor (Chalamet), and best supporting actor (Hammer). Chalamet and Hammer’s on-screen chemistry is undeniably charming, clumsy and beautiful. This film pushes and challenges the parameters of how a film can affect people’s emotions in the most raw and elegant way the film industry has seen in quite some time.