There are very few films that leave an entire audience silent when the credits begin to roll, but after a recent screening of “Call Me By Your Name” at the Fargo Theatre, the audience watched Elio (Timothée Chalamet) cry softly as the credits ran. As Sufjan Stevens’ original song “Visions of Gideon” played, Elio reflected on his experience loving an unexpected person who had entered his life and what it means to love.
In “Call Me By Your Name,” Luca Guadagnino’s most recent release, he adapts André Aciman’s novel of the same name. The story follows the relationship between Elio, a 17-year-old American-Italian Jewish boy and Oliver (Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old American Jewish scholar working with Elio’s father in 1983 Italy. Over the course of six weeks, the two go from being introduced to sharing adjacent living spaces in Elio’s home to spending Oliver’s final days alone before Oliver leaves. Elio and Oliver both realize their bisexuality through the story and, in the end, the heartbreak Elio feels when Oliver leaves is palpable through the screen.
The acting in this film cannot receive enough praise. Chalamet and Hammer are incredible in every scene they share, and the supporting cast, which includes Michael Stuhlbarg, who also stars in “The Shape of Water” and “The Post”—two of “Call Me By Your Name’s” Oscar opponents—and Amira Casar. The full cast allows Chalamet and Hammer to explore their characters’ conflict of love and what love means to both of them. Using this experience they learn to communicate their love in a physical way. Through the love scenes between both hetero- and homosexual couples, Elio’s first love proves to be one where words are often incapable of describing the feeling between the two of them.
The environment the story takes place in is equally beautiful. The lush, wooded countryside of Northern Italy is a visual masterpiece set amid sunny skies, gentle breezes, and tree-lined roads; all of this is taken in over the course of many long shots as Elio and Oliver travel by bicycle across the countryside. Guadagnino takes his time establishing this place and the relationships within it. He is patient in his pacing, and the audience must be as well. On screen, there is no rush as the summer of 1983 offers little to do but read, play piano, uncover ancient sculptures, and pluck peaches and apricots from the inescapable fruit trees across the countryside.
Writer James Ivory’s careful, romantic adaptation of Aciman’s novel reveals these characters and their ever-evolving dynamic in beautifully steady, yet detailed fashion. When Elio and Oliver finally dare to reveal their true feelings for each other—a full hour into the film—the moment makes you hold your breath with its intimate power, and the emotions for both the characters on screen and the members of the audience feel completely authentic and earned. This appears to be the first homosexual relationship for either person, and the slow burn until they finally begin flirting is one that is worth the wait.
“Call Me By Your Name” is a film that follows a similar tone to “Moonlight,” Oscar winner for Best Picture in 2016, by crafting a story about love that is not accepted by society. Elio is only 17, which, while it is the age of consent in Italy, is a large difference from Oliver’s 24. Chalamet in real life is 22 and Armie Hammer is 31, so the age gap is more pronounced in terms of their on-screen ages. While watching a preview for this film on a separate occasion, people scoffed at their love story, only affirming that it is a love story that is not socially accepted. Guadagnino carefully creates a love that does not suffer from a power struggle or manipulation. Elio is visibly upset at times; however, that is a result of his confusion with his sexual identity, not any control acted upon him. This attention to detail draws the audience into their relationship, helping audience members relate to the characters and their struggles. As Elio cries during the credits, the audience also sits quietly, seeming to reflect on his heartbreak.
This film addresses social problems of 1983 that are also relevant today, captivates the audience in a story of improbable lovers, and is produced beautifully in every way. It is screened at the Fargo Theatre on a week by week basis, so take advantage of the opportunity to see it as early as possible.
Jonathan is a junior double majoring in Economic and Finance and English Writing and minoring in Music. He enjoys music, traveling, hammocking, drinking tea, and listening to records. This is his second semester writing for the Concordian!