The subtle build of anticipation makes the coming of age romance Call Me By Your Name so irresistibly delicious. Whether it be the fruit in the orchards in this film, ripening until ready to be picked and savored, or the tender romance between two men of disparate ages, the buzz for this film has grown over the past several months. It’s been ten years since the novel by the same name by André Aciman was published, and over that time, it’s become a beloved coming of age story, especially within the gay community. This movie itself was as hotly anticipated as the romance within the plot of the film. Both deliver, with fulfilling results.
The film’s starts with the title card and then a card in the same wonderfully 80’s era font reads “Somewhere in Northern Italy 1983.” While the desire between the seventeen year old Elio (Timothée Chalamet, who between this and Lady Bird has become the next big thing) and the graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer) feel timeless and relatable for anyone who’s ever felt a risky crush, this movie also truly embraces the time period. The wardrobe is spot on, showing Elio mature from patterned board shorts and Talking Heads tshirts into high buttoned up dress shirts and skinny pants. Hammer’s Oliver is handsome in any decade, but truly fits the mold of the 80s dream man, with his floppy blonde bands and open denim shirt. The music also evokes the decade, with Oliver dancing with erotic abandon to Psychedelic Fur’s “Love My Way.” There are some beautiful contemporary songs written for the film by Sufjan Stevens that capture the interiors of Elio’s mind during silent moments, but even Stevens’ music feels like it would have been appreciated in the 80s as well.
The most “period piece” part of the film is not these stylistic elements, but what makes the growing attraction between Elio and Oliver so forbidden, not necessarily their ten year or so age difference, but how gay relationships were viewed at that time. Even though Elio’s parents (played with stunning warmth by Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Caser) feel very open and liberal, the early 80s was certainly not the same cultural climate today for gay acceptance, even in more upper class academic enclaves. A big theme that runs through this film and really hits to the heart at the end is this idea that love can feel timeless, but that timing can damage or prevent love.
It’s no surprise that visually this movie is a sumptuous feast. Between the vision of director Luca Guadagnino and the screenplay by James Ivory (yes, that same Ivory of Merchant-Ivory Films, the team that brought audiences so many gorgeous films of full of longing). Unlike other films about Italy, the lusciousness of Call Me By Your Name doesn’t come from pastas and wine, but in nature. Whether it’s watching the peaches ripen until they’re ready to be plucked from the tree and savored or apricots being turned into a vibrant colored juice that Oliver drowns in thirsty gulps in front of an equally thirsty and admiring Elio, you can’t take your eyes of the rich colors of the fruit in this film. You can almost taste them. There are multiple scenes in a small stone-walled pool and the two men running in the fields which make the viewer feel the sensuality of nature. The camera steers the viewer to look closely at these images in nature, also the touch of a toe or the drop of blood, but it doesn’t feel forced or manipulative, it feels like the filmmaker wants you to savor every image because these moments that are shown are fleeting moments in time. Like Elio and Oliver, I too felt time flew by and I didn’t want the moment I was in to end. But stay through the credits. There’s no Marvel-esque secret scene but there is a gorgeously and subtly acted moment by Chalamet that you’ll want to enjoy until the very end.