By Vicky Chen (V)
Named the Best Picture of 2017 by L.A. Critics, Luca Guadagnino’s controversial Call Me By Your Name explores the harrowing coming-of-age experiences of first love and identity. The movie stars Timothee Chalamet as 17-year-old Italian-American Elio and features his time spent one summer at his family’s villa in northern Italy. Armie Hammer is introduced as the early-20s, charming, all-American Oliver, who has come to the villa to study with Elio’s father, a professor of Greco-Roman culture.
The film explores the tumbling romance that develops slowly between Elio and Oliver, navigating the turns of life that summer throws at them. Elio spends his summer days playing and composing music for the piano and guitar, biking around the stunning scenery of Crema, Italy, and reading books in the sun. Oliver proves to be a social butterfly in this new community; he wins the affection of Elio’s parents quickly, as well as the admiration of all the girls. Elio watches Oliver from the side, quietly keeping to himself. Their relationship begins to slowly develop from their furtive dinner-table interactions into something much more.
As the story is told from Elio’s point of view, his crush on Oliver begins to escalate and reveal more about his character. Chalamet portrays his teenage character perfectly, allowing the audience insight into the vulnerability of discovering one’s identity. The audience is there at every step as Elio explores his final summer before adulthood. He struggles with his sexual identity, maintaining a sexual but emotionless relationship with a girl around the neighborhood, all while constantly keeping his eye on Oliver. Even though the connection between Elio and Oliver is apparent from the start, both of them work hard to maintain a cold distance between themselves. The movie comes to a climax towards the end, when the tension between the two is finally acknowledged, and they begin an electrifying, mesmerizing, and short-lived hidden relationship.
The realistic portrayal and attention to detail in this film makes it extraordinarily special. Guadagnino maneuvers the sluggish summer days gracefully, depicting a lush and beautiful setting that envelops the viewer in its authenticity. As Elio and Oliver’s relationship becomes deeper, their interactions become increasingly awkward. However, it is not bad acting that creates this tension between the characters—their interactions are written to be painfully realistic in their long pauses and flustered statements. Guadagnino perfectly portrays the teenage clumsiness of navigating a first love.
Additionally, Guadagnino manages to integrate every aspect of an idyllic summer into the background of the movie. Using an emphasis on nature and a nonchalant pace, Guadagnino is able to replicate an end-of-summer sense of drowsiness and fulfillment. His visual choices and cinematography enable the viewer to feel present in the scene.
The movie ends with an incredibly intimate scene as Elio sits in front of the fireplace, grief-stricken with emotion after learning over the phone about Oliver’s engagement. Everything around him is dynamic, from the flames into which he is staring to the people hustling in the background. As the eerily powerful “Videos of Gideon” by Sufjan Stevens plays softly, tears slowly fall down Elio’s face over the course of three minutes. This finale reiterates the rocky journey of adolescence and emphasizes the impact of not only a first great love, but a first great loss.