A scintillating tale of one unforgettable summer that ends all too quickly. It is very much a slow burn that takes the time to show us the delicate mannerisms of Elio and Oliver as they dance around each other before inevitably falling in love.
Elio is an intelligent but inexperienced 17-year-old who is wonderfully played by Timothee Chalamet. The story is told from his perspective so we get to see the longing looks and pained expressions that no one else can. This means that we also get to see Oliver in the same way Elio does, never knowing his true motivations or feelings. Oliver is older and much more mature, he’s visiting as a student and staying with Elio’s family to work with his father over summer. Arnie Hammer plays Oliver well but seems a bit too old for the part at times. The noticeable age gap is a bit off-putting and is my only gripe with the movie, but I did get used to it relatively quickly.
Elio and Oliver are both completely different people which is why they’re so drawn to each other. Elio is innocent and sensitive and has a youthful ignorance of the world whereas Oliver is confident and charismatic but puts on a facade to hide his true feelings. Elio is learning to explore his sexuality while Oliver is trying to suppress it. Both of them desire the very qualities that the other possesses, and over the course of the summer, they learn to become each other. This makes it all the more powerful when Oliver gives the titular line:
“Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine”
It is so satisfying to watch both of them develop and feel comfortable being their true selves. This is down to the fantastic patience of director Luca Guadagnino, slowly and subtly giving us just the right amount of progression in every scene.
The movie does a great job of showing the intricate little details that most similar films miss. Showing Elio moping about doing nothing intensifies the scenes where he plays music or goes swimming. It really feels like a slow summer and when it ends, you feel as if you were there with them.
The soundtrack and setting of the film really enhance the feelings of the characters. Italy looks amazing, the understated cinematography lets you take in all its beauty in a natural way, without drawing attention to itself. The soundtrack is full of slow, intimate music that grabs you at just the right moments and fits in with the meandering nature of the movie. It all comes together at once in the goosebump-inducing hiking scene near the end of the film where Oliver and Elio are alone together and free.
The spectacular ending is what brings this movie from good to excellent. Michael Stuhlbarg (Elio’s father) gives a beautifully moving speech to Elio about how to cope with the harsh reality of life.
“Right now there’s sorrow, pain. Don’t kill it and with it the joy you’ve felt.”
It is a tremendous performance and one of the standout scenes in the film. The very last scene just edges it for me though, where Elio is left an emotional wreck staring into the fireplace while the credits roll. It’s a masterfully acted scene, enhanced by some heart-wrenching music. The unique decision to show the credits while the movie is still playing really pays off.
I wasn’t immediately sure that I was going to like the film but it grew on me more and more even after the end credits had rolled. By the time it had finished, I was left feeling in a similar way to the two main characters; I wanted to jump straight back into their world, wondering why it had to end so quickly especially when I realised my love for it far too late. This film won’t be for everyone, but I’d recommend you give it a watch and I believe everyone can take something meaningful away from it. I remember everything.