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“Call Me By Your Name” is both poignant and important

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Carol Ann Gladstone, Editor

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American writer Andre Aciman wrote the beautifully composed novel, Call Me By Your Name,  published in January 2007. The novel has recently been released as an Oscar nominated film in January of 2017 by Luca Guadagnino.

This novel and film is not to be judged until the time has been taken to  actually sit down and read the book or watch the movie. This is not a cliche love story about two men struggling with coming out or not being accepted; this is the love story between two men that goes unheard.

Aciman’s novel tells the story from 17 year old Elio Perlman’s point of view during his summer in his family’s villa in Italy. His father, a professor, takes in students who are finishing their doctoral studies as interns and helps them with resumes and things of that nature. During the summer of 1987 Oliver enters from New England and the two form a special bond.

The 2017 film starts with Elio who is portrayed by a new young talent in Hollywood, Timothee Chalamet, in his room listening for the new arrival his father has invited for the summer. When the car pulls up he runs to the window to reveal the man, Oliver, who is portrayed by Armie Hammer.

There is a drastic difference between these two actors but also some similarities. Hammer is married to his beautiful wife Elizabeth, who is the mother of  their two kids. Chalamet is also a heterosexual male, which brings so much more to the story and how it is acted. The chemistry is so believable.

The difference is the amount of acting each one has done. Hammer’s first movie in 2006 as Chalamet has only been in short indie films besides his major role in Lady Bird, which was also an Oscar nominated film.

On screen they bring their age difference with them.

In the story Elio is 17 and Oliver is 21. In real life Chalamet is 21 and Hammer is 31. The age difference in their  journey does not really play a part; it is not really mentioned and even if it was- logically the age of consent in Italy is 14.

So even if it didn’t change the story, it added to the intimacy and chemistry of the two men.

These two are not the only important characters of the story, there is Elio’s father, Professor Perlman, portrayed by Michael Stuhlbarg, his mother, Annella Perlman, acted by Amira Casar and his friend, Marzia, who is played by Esther Garrel.

After the two being introduced it shows Elio telling Oliver that he is staying in his old room and they share a bathroom. Though when it shows Oliver already asleep, viewers get the impression that Oliver is arrogant.

In the novel Elio thinks he is full of himself as well. He gets annoyed by the man’s overly confident attitude.

This is later addressed by Elio in one of the very first scenes watchers see of him already trying to make a good impression on the stranger who has come to live with him.

In the mirror he is shaving his (non-existent) mustache and puts on his best shirt to find out that Oliver was not coming for dinner and viewers can see by the look on Elio’s face that he was let down.

This whole view of Chalamet’s face really is what makes the story more understandable, that is what is most important in this film. Understanding what they are saying without dialogue and just with their bodies and facial expressions.

That is when he told his parents that Oliver seems ‘arrogante’ when he says his version of goodbye- ‘later’.

The concept of the man saying ‘later’ becomes a part of the film, it is something that is important and the audience hangs onto.

In fact, ““Later!” The word, the voice, the attitude.” Is the first sentence of the novel and Elio’s first impression to it was “It sounded harsh, curt, and dismissive,”

As the story goes on, the two men tend to dismiss each other which leaves it up to the imagination of the watchers to guess who is more into who.

Although this process is bothersome, it ends up being so worth it in the end.

Continuing on to the admiration that the young boy has for Oliver is shown when his mother and him are in his father’s study watching the foreigner communicate and talk with very elaborate intelligence.

Elio’s eyes don’t leave Oliver as he explains to his father where the origin of the word “apricot” comes from. Though this is a small moment, maybe it is the smile that Oliver throws Elio before the cut scene.

In the novel version of the story Elio in that moment is gushing in his head over Oliver knowing all of this. It is a quite humorous moment to read and see just how charming the older man is.

Yeah…that is why this movie is unique in itself, the romance between the two is not in your face, it is not expressed through the words they tell each other, it is expressed through the chemistry that these two form over the course of the film.

In love stories the reader/viewer always wants the main character to be with the person they are following because that is their personal thoughts and feelings about the other person.

Though when this particular story is in writing; you don’t want them together- you need them together. Not because we follow Elio around and hear his thoughts and feelings, because when they are in the same room and when they do speak to each other, you feel it. The connection that is missing out of most love stories. It is organic, beautifully authentic.

Next it is the two walking in Crema, this scene seems so unimportant to those who only watch the movie, but when the two approach a bar Oliver tells Elio to go in there with him because it is “drink time.”

When the two enter the small pub the older man immediately goes to a table of men who were playing poker. Giving the idea that Oliver is not a stranger to this bar.

Oliver’s poker habit in the book become a prolonged process which made Elio think that he was sleeping around with women, it is never confirmed but with suspicion readers think that with Elio thinking this, that is what caused him to sleep with Martza later on.

In the film, it is never spoken about, just the morning after Elio sleeps with Martza and Oliver makes a joke about him playing poker too.

In the book, around the time that Elio got the nose bleed, he overheard Oliver coming in and getting in the shower. His first thing that popped into his head is that he had been out sleeping around, saying words of jealousy calling him a “traitor” and saying “are you washing off the shame and guilt?”

Then there is the scene when Elio’s friends are over and a game of volleyball is being played when he grabs water to hand it to somebody and Oliver takes it saying “good, just in time.” showing his arrogance.

That is when Oliver gives what is later claimed as a ‘hint’ to Elio that he is interested by placing his hand on his shoulder and giving him a one hand massage, though the 17 year old pulls away and acts like he is in pain.

In the book the understanding of why he did that is explained more. He is filled with hormones and electricity, the feeling he feels for Oliver is more than his body could handle and it took him back.

This scene caused an overall build up of tension, it made the viewers see the now forming bond between the two of them. The way they had now made a connection, and it was becoming stronger even with its strained communication.

In the novel there is part which gives you a form of insight to how Oliver feels, the swift communication and slick choice of words is what probably causes Elio to be as head-over-heels as he was.

At first the audience is more convinced this tension is strictly sexual and they just want to be intimate. Which is another reason this film contains so much meaning, because it changes so vastly and the people watching are proved wrong.

Martza’s character is there to show the conflict between Elio being fully homosexual and just out bisexual. This is exposed when him and Martza show intimate moments later on in the movie then her being shot down by Elio.

Oliver does show a sense of shyness and does show body language of not fully being aware of what he is doing, this makes his character complex with more mystery to what is really inside of him and his mind- especially towards Elio.

This is something amazing that Hammer brings to the screen while portraying this character. He does not skip a beat of the characters supposed emotions and it is something so extraordinary to watch.

A scene that is very descriptive in the book is the next important scene in the movie, Elio is in his bed one morning displayed in his boxers.

It shows Oliver walking towards the house wiping sweat off of his body, the camera switches screens back to Elio and shows him with his hands down on his body. This scene is soon interrupted by Oliver knocking on the door.

He walks in seemingly curious as to what Elio is doing and he lies saying he is reading picking up a book in panic before the older man could actually see what he was doing.

“Why aren’t you by the lake with everyone else?” Oliver asks in both the novel and film and the feelings of what the younger male is tempting is prying at his every holy thought, dismissing them he lies telling the guest that he has an allergy which Oliver says he does too suggesting they have the same one.

This is a hint – this the start of the piling tension viewers get to watch more and more. First it was the hand on Elio’s back and now it is the clear reason why Oliver is actually there when he suggest they go swim together in the pool instead.

In the book, Elio tries to stall the process being ashamed of what is happening to his body but in both formats Oliver declines saying that he will get dressed and be waiting for the younger boy downstairs.

It is moments like these that is the almost climax of how Elio is feeling about his own sexuality and how beautifully this story will progress into when the two actually do tempt to play with the fire rising between them.

This shown for the next few parts, the two are outside in the pool and Elio is watching Oliver swim, then quickly looks away when he comes above water.

Oliver asks what Elio is thinking about and the teen replies that it is private, which causes the older man to joke around saying “you’re not going to tell? I’ll just hang out with your mom then.”

Though this scene is small and seems irrelevant, it is the start of soft banter which proceeds in what the internet calls “The Bach Scene.”

Everything about it is comical, it seems like a filler and the part of the audience that hasn’t read the book wouldn’t understand the full extent of it and the realization Elio makes during it.

The two are bantering over a Bach song that Elio played on the guitar; Oliver told him that he liked it.

The younger one asked him to follow him to the piano where he played the same song just different versions. Oliver asked starting to get mad and Elio was enjoying the fact he was getting annoyed.

In the book there is two key things said in this moment, both making the progress of their relationship.

In both versions of the story  Elio says that it is dedicated to his brother, though in the novel it is his song to Oliver, one that he is playing for him. It is a sacred moment, “we were – and he must of recognized the signs before I did – were flirting.”

One thing that isn’t going to be brought up much is the small fling that Elio and Martza have. It is really over all not important and was put in there for the fact of the boys sexuality and awakening of his body.

There is nothing truly relevant about it  until the end when it is guessed that she knows and understands, but even then, it wasn’t serious and doesn’t really mean anything to the story unless fans are only focusing on the sexual awakening side of the story.

Elio during morning breakfast tells his father – with Oliver present – that he did almost sleep with her the night before.

That is when the important quote, “if not now, when?” comes into play in the novel. This is something that has been personally taken and thought about a lot since reading it.

When Oliver says that Elio thinks about it a lot in the novel, he ponders when ever he is around Oliver and it causes him to build more tension between them that doesn’t even need to be there.

His father invites them to come to the ocean and see an older roman-time sculpture that arose to shore.

The beautiful moment about this is when Elio is the first one to speak about the constant tension that arises between them, the two are looking at the arm of the sculpture and Elio shakes it’s hand and says, “truce?”

A more intimate part in the novel is cleaned up to make it seem more sensual, though it is a little weird and some might cringe- the part really shows Elio’s infatuation with Oliver. The extent of his wanting and desire for the man.

He goes into Oliver’s room, grabbing his bathing suit and placing it over his head. In the written version of this scene more happens, but on screen that doesn’t matter or need to be seen or spoken about.

All that matters is this really ties the deal with Elio’s heart.

This scene follows with one of the most important dialogues of the movie. This quote is in both the novel and film- meaning that it is another that is personally being carried for the rest of my life with me.

This scene also gives a clear vision of the relationship Elio has with his parents and maybe even hints at them knowing that their son has feelings for Oliver.

In this part his father, his mother and him are reading a book about a knight who loved the princess but was never brave enough to tell her.

With the Elio’s mother’s hand in his hair and his head laid on his father’s lap, the quote, “is it better to speak or die?” Becomes more strong, more lively and more understandable in this moment.

Elio says, “I’d never have the courage to ask a question like that.” And his parents have the knowing look on their faces.

This scene is one of a kind, personally have never seen it in film before with such purity and the actual sincerity between the characters makes it seem like viewers are actually just watching a normal family.

His father continues with, “You can talk to us about anything.”

This follows with the calm before the storm. Showing both of men outside in the pool where Elio brings up the quote and Oliver asks “well is it better to speak or die?” To which the younger one avoids and says that his mother believes to “speak.”

Oliver mentions that he needs to go to town which Elio offers to go for him and the older man suggests they go together.

This is odd for Oliver to be open with Elio, asking him to go places with him, but this is only the true calm before the storm, like I said.

In the novel in this moment Elio is thinking really hard about speaking. He says that it is “his truth.” That he doesn’t only want Oliver to hear “his truth”, but he needs him to hear it.

Oliver is admiring the memorium statue of Piave and states he has never heard about it before, Elio tells him about it and the older man says, “Is there anything you don’t know?”

This is where Elio feels the need to tell him, he sees this as an opening up moment and says “you’d be surprised how little I know about the things that matter.”

The intensity in this moment is what really matters between them, it is the tension that keeps readers/watchers on the edge of their seat hoping that Oliver takes the hint of what he is saying.

This bond is getting stronger by the moment and there is really nothing to hang onto anymore besides Oliver’s response, and when he does reply it makes a heart beat faster – “what things that matter?”

“You know what things.” Elio replies and the room is closing on us viewers.

“This leaves audience in a sort of trance and trying to gather the understanding of what just happened between the two. The tension rises but the difference with it this time is that Elio’s feelings are now out in the open and nobody knows how Oliver thinks.

Though the scene is so strong willed. Almost so smart and such a powerful way to say you are interested in someone. Such a strong communication moment between them, it’s breathtaking.

Oliver comes back annoyed and saying that his papers got mixed up and he can’t work today and Elio says that he probably should not have said anything which Oliver replies that he is going to act like he didn’t and that they can’t talk about those things.

This is the first development of Elio’s character growth when it comes to Oliver though, he feels silenced and as though he can’t really function around the man because of their strained relationship but he says, “So does that mean we are on speaking terms but not really?”

It shows them riding their bikes to which the audience assumes back to the Villa though they go to what is named Monet’s Berm which is a closed in grassy scenery with a small body of water.

You see Oliver open up a little to Elio here saying “I like the way you say things, I don’t know why you always need to put yourself down though.” And this is where Elio exposes the vulnerability he feels when it comes to the other man.

“So you won’t, I guess.”

Oliver seems clearly annoyed by the answer and says “do you really care that much about what I think?”

Elio doesn’t say anything, he just takes a step closer to Oliver and looks up at him.

Which is a prideful and strong powerment for Elio. A showing of how much he can actually be in control of his mind, how much he stand tall when it comes to Oliver.

THIS IS A MOMENT. THIS IS THE MOMENT.

It is clear that these two people are both feeling the same tension and feelings when Oliver ACTUALLY SAYS, “you’re making things difficult for me.”

That is when the fans are finally convinced that they are both feeling the same way towards each other and now all of us as people who are hooked onto this forming bond just need something to happen, a kiss, SOMETHING.

The scene switches to them laying on the grass and the tension is not only there but viewers can almost feel it and see it like a brick wall in between these two humans. “I love this, Oliver.”

Elio breaks the silence and the older man finds it humorous saying, “Us, you mean?”

Then it happens. THE MOMENT HAPPENS.

Oliver reaches to touch Elio’s mouth and traces it with his finger causing the younger man to prop up on his elbows so their faces are closer together and with an actual 7 seconds of hesitation that feel like 7 hours, the two kiss.

As a first kiss, admittingly it is quite heated and more seductive than most but overall it feels as though a weight has been lifted off the shoulders of the viewers. IT FINALLY HAPPENED.

Oliver comes to realization of what he is doing is pushes Elio away saying, “no, no no.” Which the younger boy seems confused questioning him. “We have been good, I want to be good.” Oliver states and this causes Elio to reach out and grab the man’s crotch with a confident look on his face and asks;

“Am I offending you?”

Oliver just smiles and removes his hand saying, “Just don’t.”

This is essentially how the scene ends and is skipped to the scene at the lunch table with Elio’s parents, their friends and the two boys.

Elio and Oliver are sitting there awkwardly. For those who didn’t read the book- at this scene viewers need to watch Oliver’s face. See how he looks at Elio because in the novel he is placing his foot on top of Elio’s which overwhelms him and causes the boy to get a nosebleed.

He runs inside to cure it and Oliver follows where they have a moment of connecting through their religious beliefs.

The cinematic directing of this scene is beautiful. It shows how sometimes they are really in such a small place of their world and they are together. In the tiny corridor they are sat in.

Oliver gives Elio a painful foot massage and he says “you’ll kill me if you don’t stop.”

This small quote might seem like nothing but for those who read the novel know the importance of the quote “You’ll kill me if you stop,” which was the quote that Elio would daydream of Oliver saying when they are in bed together.

That is when Oliver takes off all night, and we see Elio waiting around for him, asking people where he is and you notice that he has on the same Star of David necklace on that Oliver usually wears.

It is after this night that Elio makes the choice to shun Oliver for leaving him home alone and going out all night after their kiss.

It then shows him going out with Martza, who is irrelevant and was just a part of Elio’s sexual awakening and coming to terms of his sexuality.

The next morning Oliver walks down the stairs asking Elio if he had a good time last night.

It made the more hateful and annoyed tension between them thicker.

Elio goes up to his room and finds a letter on his transcripted music that reads “Grow up. Meet me at midnight.”

AND NOW THIS IS REALLY A TRUE MOMENT! THE MOMENT WHERE THE AUDIENCE KNOWS BUT DOES NOT KNOW BECAUSE THESE TWO CHARACTERS SO ARE COMPLICATED AND ANNOYING ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

Waiting for midnight, the men are asking each other the time. Elio keeps looking at his watch and the anticipation is killing everyone.

When they do meet, it is dark out and Elio watches his parents go inside the house and what is left for the fans to assume they went to bed.

He looks over to see Oliver standing out of the balcony.

This moment is so amazing. It is soft and sensual. It makes the people watching think that maybe what is between them is more than just a sexual attraction. It is more – something so much more and unforgettable.

Elio walks out on the balcony and Oliver seems pleased that he did, he says “i’m happy you came.”

Throughout this time Elio seems so prideful and almost brave but still human.

Chalamet said in the commentary version of the film that this scene was fun to make and that it seems so weird because there were so many people around them though when it is seen on screen it is just the two hearts being alone together.

The two get playful with each other, hugging and Elio trying to jump on Oliver, but it is when the moment finally comes that makes viewers almost relieved.

The tension is gone. They are finally sharing themselves with another, but what makes it beautiful is that it is not hypersexual which Guadagnino said that he did on purpose. He didn’t want it to be shown because the audience already sees how much love and intimacy they have for each other already with the way they communicate.

After the intimacy is when the true understanding of their love comes into play.

Elio looks at Oliver and they have a look in their eyes of such admiration and the feeling of Elio’s disbelief is heartwarming. Making it so much more realistic.

Oliver looks at him and whispers, “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine.”

“Elio,” he points to Oliver and says his name; Oliver points to Elio and calls him Oliver.

This moment has been taken into so many different contexts that it is almost sad some people think this is more of a dirty thing to do instead of what it actually means. These men have just given all of themselves to each other. They have just became each other with all their love and the feelings they have for one another are now all out there.

The next morning in the book it is more explained that Elio feels some sort of feeling but it isn’t exactly regret. It is more of a nervous and scary feeling to Elio.

You see these moments on screen but fans need to get that understanding by actions and body language of the two. It is almost saddening to see and it is depressive that after this is what he wanted for so long- he now is running from it.

Oliver goes into town and Elio follows behind trying to find him and when he does it says “I just wanted to be with you, i’ll go.” This is kind of an awakening that he is just insecure and doesn’t know how to understand what just happened. It is moments like these that are put to remind the audience he is young and still has youth that he hasn’t experienced yet.

As Elio goes to walk away Oliver stops him by saying “do you know how happy I am that we slept together?”

The manly man Oliver is finally opening up and letting his guard down. IT IS ABOUT TIME!

They walk a little down the road it is sad when Elio asks, “Are you happy I came?” Almost like a heartbreak from how much self doubting he is doing inside of his mind.

Oliver reassures him in such a beautiful way moving closer to him and looking around before saying, “I would kiss you if I could.”

This scene seems so romantic and personal.

Though the romance ends and it is brought to the most controversial scene of the film. This scene is talked about and Chalamet gets pressed about it all the time, but that is because Aciman wrote such an out of the box part that it is hard to believe that an exotic and foreign moment can have such a deep meaning.

“The Peach Scene”  as the internet calls it, is the scene where Elio is at his full brink of his sexual awakening – in the book the peach has a deeper meaning, it reminding him of Oliver.

Oliver walks in after and find Elio sleeping, the peach is exposed and it is a moment of true honesty and commission of them that is between the two. Elio is embarrassed, crying, saying he is sick and Oliver smiles and says, “I wish everyone was as sick as you.”

Before Oliver leaves to go back to the states they take off to Bergamo, though in the book they take a very love induced trip to Rome.

During their time away in Rome they attend a book party for a poet who owns a bookstore in Crema. Elio tells him his poem San Clemente spoke to him.

Their first scenes in Bergamo are complemented with Mystery Of Love by Sufjan Stevens, which was actually made for the movie and Stevens performed at the Oscars.

It cuts to the two roaming the streets and singing when Love My Way by Psychedelic Furs is heard in the distance and Oliver runs towards where it is coming.

They dance with random people by their car and Elio throws up on himself which Oliver laughs at and it skips to the most sensual and romantic part of the film.

This scene is called “The Kiss In Rome”; in this scene the two look at each other with the most amazing and pure admiration for each other. There is no standoff moment where they care that they are in public, it is just them.

It is moment like these that viewers need to remember these are two heterosexual men who are making these two fictional lovers come to life. There is no way any other actors would of been able to form this chemistry.

They are happy. They are free. And they are together.

They kiss and with that viewers see the outstanding chemistry that brews between the characters. Hammer and Chalamet did such a unforgettable job portraying that moment.

It cuts to Oliver in the hotel room as he walks over to watch Elio sleep. The pain and emotion that is written on his face makes watchers feel and understand without words what he is thinking.

The train rings in the distance and he looks over his shoulder- and that is the last intimate thought he has of Elio.

They say their goodbyes at the train station, but the next important scene is with Mr. Perlman and Elio.

Mr. Perlman’s monologue is not only emotionally draining and eye opening – but it is important.

It is an understanding that his father knows what has gone on and he has been through the same experience but was never brave enough to act on it.

There is no need to put the quotes from this touching moment in here because if there is no intention on watching the movie, then there is no intention of learning such an amazing life lesson that is taught.

It jumps to winter and shows a differently dressed Elio who is more flamboyant and comfortable in his own body language.

The phone rings and it is Oliver. This moment is not only sad but this moment is just another calm before the storm.

“I have some news,” Oliver says and the audience feels their own personal heartbreak when Elio guesses what it is. Why is it important that Elio already knew? Maybe because it shows how much doubt that he had. Or maybe because they became each other.

“You’re getting married I suppose?” He chokes up and it is confirmed by Oliver that he might be getting married next spring.

“Elio, Elio, Elio,” Elio whispers into the phone and the feeling is almost so heartbreaking that it is almost like you are Elio himself.

Oliver sighs and whispers, “Oliver, I remember everything.”

When you bring this quote into the novel it is also one of the last thing Oliver says to Elio when they meet again 20 years later.

Such realistic feelings, such realistic reactions- this is such a realistic film and process to go through. No rushing of feelings just full build up and connection.

The final scene bring viewers to their own personal heartbreak they have experienced. It makes them remember a time when the world has stood still for them, but everyone else kept moving behind them. It is a view that is not seen in cinema ever.

Then brings the final scene which brings everything together and is the most unforgettable, emotional, best cinematic moments of facial acting that has been seen. And to think Chalamet is so young and has such talent that it gives people the chills just from a face shot.

Visions of Gideon by Sufjan Stevens plays and Elio sits in front of the fireplace, in the commentary version, Chalamet said that he had an earpiece that was playing this song while he was acting out the part.

Besides that point, there are no words spoken. Nothing but his tears and face tell everything that is needed to be said from him. This is the wrap-up of the summer that viewers have witnessed.

The last words in this film are Elio’s mother calling his name, which causes the teen to look over his shoulder.

That is the last intimate thought he has of Oliver.

And that moment right there is why Call Me By Your Name is the most amazingly written, beautifully directed, film that has came out in a long time.

 

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