Back in 2017, I attended my first prominent film festival, the Savannah Film Festival in Savannah, Georgia. For the first time I ever, I was getting to see big-time films before the rest of the world, and I couldn’t be more stoked. It was around this time where my taste in movies really started to diversify. While I’ve always loved film and hoped to one day make my own, my taste was pretty…standard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but prior to this my main exposure to movies were big blockbusters with a few must-see classic sprinkled in. I attended this festival with an open mind, hoping to find the film that could broaden my taste, that could present a story in the style of something I wasn’t accustomed to. I was looking for something different.
As I settled into my seat in a crowded theater packed with festival attendees, I could only hope that the film I was about to see would give me a new perspective into film as not only a filmmaker, but a filmgoer as well. Two hours and some change later I left the theater with one thing on my mind.
This movie is hot.
Juvenile and pedestrian, I know. As I took the memories of the film home with me, however, I began to appreciate it for what it is: a unique romantic masterpiece that captivated me in a way I didn’t think possible.
And yeah, it’s still hot.
Call Me by Your Name is an adaptation of a romantic novel of the same name. The story follows Elio, a 17-year old boy living in Northern Italy with his scholar parents. When a colleague of his father, Oliver, comes to stay with them for the summer, Elio develops a fascination with him. This fascination eventually evolves into a romantic relationship that the two struggle with as we question if this is truly love or a simple summer fling.
Elio and Oliver are portrayed by Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer respectively. Chalamet’s Elio is an educated, talented young man who may have tricked himself into believing he’s more mature than he is. He’s multilingual, a tremendous musician on both chord and key, and something of a local heartthrob with the local girls. He emanates sophistication, but deep down, he’s still a boy who hasn’t truly seen all that life can offer. Enter Hammer as Oliver, a tall, handsome statuesque man that completely enamors Elio, and maybe even threatens him. Oliver quickly becomes a hit with the locals for his intelligence as much as his good looks. For Elio, a boy raised in wealth with everything from Bach to Browning at his fingertips, he has met his match, but not his equal.
Both actors are incredible at building a blossoming “will they/won’t they” relationship over the course of the short summer. Many of their interactions involve ploys of sly one-upsmanship, with Elio hoping to impress and Oliver almost seeming as if he aims to embarrass. When they aren’t speaking, they admire one another from a far, but not in the typical romantic way we’ve come to expect. There’s an admiration, a jealousy and a confusion in their gazes. Without leaning on cliches like quick glances and accidental hand touches, director Luca Guadagnino instead utilizes what’s unseen; a hard to describe energy that volleys between the two like a hyperactive neuron. The tension remains palpable up until the two share their first kiss, which detonates into an explosion of relief and a bit of taboo.
The exploration of sex and love between the two could not be achieved without a combination of talented directing of passion and purposeful setting-building that this film is thankfully teeming with. The romantic scenes are both restrained yet graphic. Watching this film for the first time surrounded by hundreds of strangers was certainly an experience, as I had never seen anything like this before. You could feel the room steaming up, but not because of the sex on screen. I think most of us had seen that before, but what we saw being played out was something a bit rarer: unbridled tenderness. Don’t get me wrong, everyone involved in the making of this film knows its lifeblood is its most intimate and skin-bearing scenes, but each is handled with a care and whimsicality that you don’t often see in film unless its blown up to extreme kissing in the rain/sex by the fireplace proportions.
The only thing that can hope to match the beauty of the relationship is the setting itself. Primarily shot in the city of Crema, the backdrop of the traditional Italian city is truly delightful to see. Everything from the marketplace to a cold little stream out in the countryside feels so private and intimate. The house in which Elio and Oliver resides in is a magnificent piece of 16th century villa architecture, feeling huge at first but grows ever so smaller as the divide between Elio and Oliver diminishes. The film as much a summer vacation movie as your typical beach or summer camp set films, complete with an exploration in adolescence and self discovery. Paired with the admirable scenery is a fluttering piano covers of classical pieces and a few period-appropriate Italian pop songs. However, there is perhaps no better encapsulation of the themes and emotions of the film in musical form than Sufjan Steven’s contributions to the film’s soundtrack. His headlining track, “Mystery of Love”, is a beautiful reflection of the joy and days of passion Elio and Oliver experience before being struck with the realization that it has come to an end.
When the film isn’t making you feel funny feelings about a 17 year-old and a 24 year-old making passionate love, it retains its tenderness with the relationship between Elio and his parents. Without a word spoken about Elio and Oliver’s relationship, Elio’s parents remain supportive and caring for their son in the middle of his self-discovery. They don’t fight him or attempt to steer him in a more traditional direction, but they shower him with the love and understanding that we all hope to achieve. The connection between Elio and his father, Samuel, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, was one of the most wholesome father/son connections I’ve ever seen on film. Samuel’s monologue to Elio near the end of the film is nothing short of incredible and spoke to me on a level I hadn’t experienced before.
“Don’t make yourself feel nothing so as to not feel anything”.
In every aspect and in every sense of the word, Call Me by Your Name is romantic triumph that goes against traditional conventions and asks you to walk alongside the characters, see through their eyes, and go by their names. Where another incredible romance film like Before Sunrise captivates you with it’s honest and genuine dialogue, Call Me by Your Name invigorates the viewer with pure, freshly squeezed passion that radiates from the littlest of gestures. Perhaps not conventional enough for mainstream audiences, I found this film speaking to me in ways a film hadn’t spoken to me before. Without getting too dramatic, I champion this movie as the film that really convinced me to develop a more critical eye for cinema, introducing to me more experimental and diverse voices that I’m not sure I would have sought out originally.
Enough about me though. Should you watch this? YES. Is it gonna make you feel some things you maybe didn’t think you’d feel? YES. Are you going to look at that lone piece of fruit sitting on your kitchen counter ever again? NO!
I just want to say I could have made this drink a lot more cruder. However, I am a gentlemen and an auteur, so I am refraining from my “haha, peaches and cream” cocktail for the time being. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean.
Never the one to ignore a very obvious ingredient, I have to decided to at least use the bountiful Crema produce for a cocktail that reminds me of my very brief stay in Italy.
Spritzers are all the rage over there, and I can think of nothing more reminiscent of summer time than a crisp, fruit flavored concoction mixed with some delicious white wine. Simple to make and ideal for your next garden party, this peach spritzer will fill you with a happy, delightful feeling.
Just like Elio filled that peach with…nope. Not gonna say it.
- 1 cup frozen peaches
- 2oz peach schnapps
- 1 1/4 cup sweet white wine.
- Mint leaves
- Put frozen peaches, peach schnapps and white wine in a blender and blend until smooth.
- Pour into wine glass.
- Garnish with mint leaves.