Throughout the film, I looked for flies. At other times, it was for playing cards or apricots. Small symbols, hidden within Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name made the viewing simply captivating. Paired with picturesque, drawn-out shots of rural Italy and a delicate soundtrack, the elements all contributed to a memorable film. Call Me by Your Name stands out as a story not only through its visuals, but also through its intense emotional movement.
Taking place in 1983, the romantic coming-of-age film follows Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet), a seventeen year old American-Italian Jewish boy, and his blossoming relationship with his father’s 24 year old graduate student, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer). The two meet when Oliver comes to stay with Elio’s family in their house in Northern Italy to help Elio’s father with academic papers regarding local archeology. During the introductory credits of the film, “Somewhere in Northern Italy” marks the location in scrawling handwriting. As the plot progresses, the ambiguous setting actually contributes to the fantasy created between the two characters. The shots of the film were long and continuous, not solely focused on the characters. This gave glimpse into their surroundings, whether that was of a narrow side street or a grandmother shelling beans. A small world was born, of an Italian romance, the characters sheltered from the outside world. The entire film was shot on 35mm film, which gave the film a look remnant of euphoria, of the scent of wildflowers mixing with the feeling of sun-kissed skin.
The relationship built between Elio and Oliver was intense in its progression. Timothée Chalamet played the role of Elio with such delicacy, showing the naivety and confusion felt by most teenagers experiencing love, and sexual desire, for the first time. Over the weeks of Oliver’s stay, the two have little direct contact, but with every physical touch the two share— such as the brushing of hands— Elio goes through bouts of confusion regarding his own sexuality. We see Elio experience desire, then resist his temptations, and finally find acceptance. The film mainly covers the internal conflict regarding Elio and Oliver’s relationship, but hints at the outside world’s perspective towards the end of the film. Chalamet shows the raw emotion that a first love issues, and the film closes with a seven minute long shot of Elio crying. Of course, a fly lands on his shoulder and crawls across his face. This, along with recurring symbols such as blood, could hint at external malice, human death, or illness.
A personal favorite addition to the film was the attention to the human body. It is fitting that Elio’s father studies Hellenistic sculptures of the male figure, and he remarks to Oliver “When you least expect it, nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot,” hinting at his awareness of his son’s affair. From that point onwards, the camera begin to focus more on Elio’s body, muscles, and skin, painting him as one of Michelangelo’s young Davids. Capturing the essence of a boy on the cusp on manhood, the shots also begin to show Elio in a more sexual light as he himself explores his sexuality.
Call Me by Your Name encapsulates what it means for a young person to mature emotionally and progress sexually. These emotions transcend beyond the story’s setting and time. While Elio and Oliver’s romance was limited due to external factors, the relationship showed affect on both characters, placing incredible importance on emotion. On the surface, Call Me by Your Name was a beautifully depicted summer romance, but upon watching for details and hidden themes, it shows the delicacy of human feelings.