By The Collectress
It has been a long time since I felt that a film really captured the essence of first love in all its beauty, all its joy, and all of its angst. Call Me By Your Name is, perhaps, the best story of the Best Picture nominees this year, not because it breaks barriers or pushes boundaries, but because it is simple: Elio and Oliver fall in love. That’s the story, but the way in which it is told leaves you with that pang in your heart, the kind you only get when you’ve witnessed a true love story.
Set in the early 1980s in northern Italy, the film follows 17-year-old Elio (Timothée Chalamet) preparing for another summer, and for yet another doctoral candidate who comes to work with his father, an esteemed archaeologist. Oliver (Armie Hammer) is loud and very American in comparison to Elio’s pan-European multilinguistic family, and on anyone other than Armie Hammer it would be unappealing. Oliver, however, has a certain kind of charm, and soon everyone, Elio included, is enchanted by him.
Eventually, Elio and Oliver begin a passionate relationship that lasts the length of the summer, and though this briefly summarizes the film, it differs from other coming-of-age/sexual-awakening films in that what Elio and Oliver have is pure. They do not say ‘I love you’; they do not need to. Although the European landscape allows and encourages their desire, the world is what it is. Those unforgiving parts of society are not deeply discussed here, because this is first love, and with it comes hope and yearning that this time it can end differently. It doesn’t, though, and our hearts break along with Elio’s.
The Italian backdrop makes it easy to fall in love with this film. It is picturesque and at times it feels like a Pre-Raphaelite painting–all warm tones and smooth brush strokes. It’s soft around the edges, much like first love, and even the things that exist in the subtext–homophobia, toxic masculinity, insecurity–are blurred until they are no longer recognizable. The music, too, sweeps us off to the Italian countryside, with its gentle piano arrangements, and early 1980s Euro-pop. This is not so much a film as it is an emotional journey between two men who got everything right except, perhaps, the one thing that mattered most: timing.
There is nothing truer I can write about the film than what Elio’s father says to him:
I may have come close, but I never had what you two have. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once.
Elio and Oliver were born three decades too soon, and perhaps that is the knowledge that the audience carries that transforms this love story into a tragedy. A beautiful one, but a tragedy nonetheless. I wept at the end of the film along with Elio, and I’m changing my earlier stance. They did say “I love you”, but it sounded like this:
Call Me By Your Name is now showing in U.S. cinemas.