To be read while listening to Sufjan Stevens who somehow captured longing to music: https://open.spotify.com/track/0oTtnnedK0C4unALxVTPhz
Heartbreak and loss are common themes in movies. It’s an emotion that is wholly human, and universally relatable. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a film that is so poignant and sensual that you are left aching with loss, a shared heartbreak.
The film begins stating that it is 1983 “Somewhere in Northern Italy” and that deliberate ambiguity brings a surreal magic to the beautiful surroundings. We are placed in this world that doesn’t seem quite real, the rivers are frigid from rain in the mountains, the grass is green and ethereal, the fruits are fresh –– picked ripe and sweet from the trees. It is a paradise, somewhere to be young and in love.
This is where we first meet Oliver ( a career best Armie Hammer) a young student American student working as a research assistant for Professor Perlman ( Micheal Stuhlbarg who has had an amazing year in cinema) and his Italian wife Annella (Amira Casar). We watch Oliver get out of the car, his long tan legs then his handsome face appears, and we watch this through the eyes of Elio.
Elio spies him from the second story window, and having cleared his room for the guest he impishly calls him the “The usurper.” Elio (Timothée Chalamet who really really deserves the Oscar ) is the 17-year-old son of the Perlmans. He has moved into the adjoining room, shared by a bathroom. That sense of closeness is so important in the film. It is a closeness that at times is unbearable, uncomfortable and ultimately referenced out loud in whispered conversations shared confidences in the title.
Elio is comfortable in his world of intellect. He reads voraciously “I can’t even begin to tell you how many books I’ve read here” he tells Oliver at his secret river refuge. He converses fluidly in English, French, and Italian, he plays Bach on the piano in the guise of other composer’s styles, he understands so much. “Is there anything you don’t know,” Oliver once asks. “If only you knew how much I don’t know about the things that matter.” Elio retorts. The things that matter. For all of Elio’s confidence he still feels behind in certain worlds, in Oliver’s world.
Chalamet is a revelation as Elio. A moment staring into the distance says so much more than words. When he steps close to Oliver his face is both daring and vulnerable, waiting to see what happens. Hammer, for his part matches the tone of Chalamet. He is confident, bold as an American usurping the European steeped world of Elio. A “later” as a farewell may seem rude, but it is an embodiment of Oliver’s knowledge of his place in the world. Elio’s yearning may shake Oliver’s confidence at times, but it levels them out.
The film continues with a rush of young love; fevered, urgent, and all-encompassing. Summer is not a time for things to last. It is as season of pressing moments, the sun shines bright in a clear blue sky, pools of cold water take your breath, warm summer nights welcome dance floors and cigarettes as much as sticky, tangled limbs and whispered adorations. Elio and Oliver have a lifetime in six weeks. They part in silence, everything was already said.
Elio is left with pain he doesn’t know how to handle. In a brilliant monologue that RuPaul in particular enjoyed from Micheal Stuhlbarg he tells his son to feel his pain and not be afraid, that is better than feeling nothing. He hints he once had something close to what Elio and Oliver were able to grasp, “I envy you.” And Elio feels that pain. In a scene that should all but guarantee that Chalamet is rightfully awarded the Oscar. Call Me By Your Name ends as the other side of young love is shown, rightfully by a winter fireside. The heat of romance is gone, leaving the bitter sting of heartbreak. It culminates in minutes of silent tears that say more about love than any words ever could.