Prepare to be enraptured in the most blissful summer romance, as Call Me by Your Name has everything to offer.
Tucked away by an abundance of greenery, the quaint Italian villa of the Perlman family is unveiled to us in the opening scenes of the film. In the summer of 1983, Oliver (Armie Hammer), a strapping young graduate from America, has come to stay with the Perlmans to act as an intern for archaeology professor Sam (Michael Stuhlbarg). Arriving in an antique, olive green Fiat, Oliver is welcomed with open arms. “Our home is your home,” Mr Perlman says. The son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), leads Oliver to his room, echoing his father’s pleasant words: “my room is your room.”
The old-fashioned villa in Call Me by Your Name is almost like the third star of the show. The director, Luca Guadagnino, has even said he wanted to buy it for himself. The house oozes intellect, its rooms crowded with books, old maps of the globe, and a grand piano adorning the living room. It’s difficult not to fall in love with its charm; the slightly dilapidated home is the ideal setting for the summer romance about to unfold.
Elio, a delicate soul, relishes in the art of music. He transforms piano songs by Liszt and Busoni into his own wonderful versions. Under the beaming sun, he plays Bach al fresco on guitar and is often seen composing his own songs. Elio is undoubtedly a virtuoso and, without his endearing personality, the film would not be the same. On the other hand, Oliver is built like a trojan warrior: strong, sturdy and classically handsome.
Oliver and Elio’s love starts with subtle notes, both of them clearly afraid to show their true feelings. Elio even tries to hide his appreciation for Oliver through frustration over his use of language. At a dinner with his family, Elio remarks “Don’t you think he is impolite when he says, ‘Later’?” Nevertheless, the desire that they have for one another cannot be submerged for long. From laughter to kisses, from cigarettes to love-making, their intense passion begins to blossom under the hazy sunlight of Northern Italy.
The film creates a very sensual atmosphere. The use of colours (light blues, yellows and greens) elicits a dreamy effect. We are transported into Elio and Oliver’s romantic utopia, which involves swimming in glistening rivers, cycling through the pristine countryside, and strolling down quintessentially Italian streets. Guadagnino puts together a very picturesque, memorable backdrop.
The frequent appearance of a peach evokes the most intimate scenes between the two men in Call Me by Your Name. In one of the most controversial moments, Elio is seen to use the peach to arouse himself. This proceeds with Oliver walking in and teasing him (“I wish more people were as sick as you”). Oliver then tries to eat the peach, but Elio feels ashamed and stops him. This is undoubtedly one of the most memorable scenes. It takes this very physical, erotic moment between them, and finds its emotional equivalent. By doing this, it never allows the audience to dwell on just the physical without the emotional counterpoint. The love between Elio and Oliver finds the perfect equilibrium between lust and affection.
Call Me by Your Name (2017), directed by Luca Guadagnino, was distributed in the UK by Sony Pictures Releasing, certificate 15. Watch the trailer below: