From its opening scene, in which we are given various shots of ripe fruit hanging invitingly from trees, and as sunlight warms the screen, ‘Call Me By Your Name’ establishes itself as a film that is firmly rooted in the throes of a hazy summer. As is often the way, with summer comes the heady experience of first love. Here, burgeoning desire develops slowly as the heat overwhelms our lead characters, and leads them to fall into one another amidst the beauty of northern Italy during the 1980s. At the centre of this idyllic setting lays an impossibly ornate villa, in which seventeen-year-old Elio Perlman (Timotheé Chalamet)—the son of a revered professor—spends his days listening with great intensity to his Walkman, flirting with the girls that so often surround him and generally enjoying the adoration he receives from all around. His existence is a tranquil, if somewhat incomplete one.
All is well, it would seem, until his father’s annual graduate student shows up to study, muse and relish in the Perlman’s exquisite summer home. As if purposely to disrupt Elio’s peaceful days, in swans Oliver (Armie Hammer), a young academic whose intelligent and charming exterior first infuriates Elio, then entices him. It is here, as the days crawl by slowly and cool water invites our protagonists to dive in, that Elio discovers what it is to indulge in awakening desire. Oliver’s presence stirs in Elio the sense that, for once, the kingdom that has long been his, the world in which he has been given everything he ever wanted, is under threat. Before Oliver’s arrival, Elio was able to walk around as if this hidden part of the Italian countryside belonged to him, and him alone. With Oliver around, Elio is suddenly unsure and unsettled. He is no longer the prince he once was. Oliver, though Elio would hate to admit it, makes him nervous. So as irritation gives way to longing, we are left to watch a whole-hearted romance unfold; accompanied by the sweet, sensual sounds of Sufjan Stevens and classical piano. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is a film that makes a great effort to engage with the senses, from the pastoral images that fill almost every scene to the tentative touches that are shared between Elio and Oliver at night, when the world is theirs. It is undoubtedly a love story of epic proportions, yet it never feels saccharine. It is never unrealistic, and it never descends into melodrama. Rather, it remains a nuanced, intimate exploration of youthful yearning and cements itself as one of the LGBTQ+ greats in film; proving itself to be just as beautiful and as fascinating as the Greco-Roman culture it so often talks of. Luca Guadagnino has, with great care, lovingly crafted a film that is essentially free of flaws; an intoxicating, balmy look at the joys of desire. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ is a romantic masterpiece and, quite possibly, my favourite film of the year.
by Hannah Ryan
Hannah is 19, lives in Cardiff and is into female protagonists, visually pleasing movies and Star Wars. Her favourite films include Pan’s Labyrinth, Casino Royale and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. She generally prefers dogs to people and you can find her talking endlessly about films at @_hannahryan on Twitter.