Love, lust, and loss in 'Call Me By Your Name'
MANILA, Philippines – Despite its very limited screenings around the globe, Call Me By Your Name, a film based on the novel of the same name written by André Aciman, has managed to soar above and beyond in the box office, surpassing Lady Bird and attaining this year’s highest per-theater average. With strong winds in it’s sails, the film now glides effortlessly towards the Oscars.
In his latest film, Guadagnino takes us to an idyllic summer in Italy, 1983. Every year, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) vacates his room for a doctoral student his father (Michael Stuhlbarg) employs to aid in his research for 6 weeks. This year’s applicant is Oliver (Armie Hammer), a sun-kissed golden boy. The film would have been your standard coming-of-age romance flick if Elio and Oliver hadn't been almost a decade apart in age and given only 6 weeks to complete the cycle of falling in love.
Elio is a precocious 17-year-old who is teetering on the cusp of manhood when he meets Oliver, a 24-year-old doctoral student who exudes confidence and casual indifference towards almost everything. Although Oliver’s presence in their home is purely academic — and, to an extent, professional — Elio quickly finds himself smitten by him.
Call Me By Your Name utilizes the still-taboo topic of age difference in romantic and sexual relationships, and manages to execute the trope without once being cliché or creepy; the main conflict doesn’t lie between the two men, rather in the short amount of time the two have together and how, despite knowing this, they still dive headfirst into a summer romance.
Through surreptitious glances and seemingly inconsequential touches, we see the telltale signs of something more. It’s this juvenile yearning from Elio that makes the film so appealing – it’s seemingly innocent but laden with sexual desire. Guadagnino seamlessly weaves love and lust together. It’s a rare treat, watching a sex scene that is ravishing without being obscene.
Considering his age, Elio’s love is one that is inextricable from lust. And although Elio is ashamed of his desire for Oliver, the film ultimately celebrates finding love and reveling in it. Paradoxically, the film also tells us that sometimes love does not always conquer all. Loss is a central theme in the film and Guadagnino conveyed it in such a way that we, despite the specificity of Elio’s case, can all relate to his raw, heart-wrenching, and emotionally devastating response.
As with most Italian summer romance flicks, when one thinks of Call Me By Your Name, visions of languid bodies basking in the sun and ripe fruit hanging heavy from their boughs are what come to mind. Guadagnino weaves a lurid tapestry that fades to a stark gray towards the end. Against the picturesque backdrop of Italy, we see their love sprout, blossom and, ultimately wilt. Majority of film is awash in the dreamlike colors of summer. With golden afternoons, turquoise sea waters, vividly green trees studded with blushing apricots, and an '80s Italian summer soundtrack to match, the viewers are immersed in the heady heat of a quintessential Italian summer right from the beginning, only for it to end in a bleak, soul-crushing fall.
By the end of the film, the viewers are left desolate and in tears, recovering from a torpid euphoria, or, as in my case, in strange mix of both. – Rappler.com
Miguel Poblador is a film student from the College of St. Benilde School of Design and Arts