Call Me By Your Name is a visually and aurally beautiful, meditative, and touching film with thought-provoking scenarios and complicated relationships. The film is beautifully shot with bold musings on the materiality of film and a northern Italian backdrop that meshes with the languid, serene pacing.
The story of a love affair between Oliver (Armie Hammer), a young adult man grappling with his sexuality, and Elio (Timothée Chalamet), a 17 year old boy coming into his own, is all at once beautiful, provocative, and confusing. As a staunch stickler for consent, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the depth of Oliver & Elio’s story and around my own enchantment with it because of Elio’s age. Regardless of American & Italian legal ages of consent, Elio is still clearly a boy in the ripe stages of puberty and sexual experimentation. That being said, it is clearly a confusing and empowering time for both men and their interest in each other goes beyond salacious lust or thoughtless sexualizing.
The women in the film play small but important roles within the narrative of the love story. Elio’s mother (Amira Casar) provides support from a distance and gently encourages her son to be honest with himself. Elio’s friend and female romantic interest, Marzia (Esther Garrel), provides a way for Elio to explore his identity through heterosexual exploration. Once Marzia grasps the situation, she too becomes a supportive ally. Interestingly, this echoes another recent portrayal, in Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, of a “scorned” women that comes to understand her part in a man’s homosexual identity. Rather than becoming vindictive or resentful, these women are able to set aside their own pain and display pure compassion for the men who previously hurt them. I love this depiction (and reminder) of the human capacity for forgiveness, understanding, and empathy.
Call Me By Your Name stands out because of its beautiful visual style and unique narrative but it sticks with you because of its slow, unfolding meditation on identity, understanding, and love.