By Penny Theodorakopoulou,
As most people are aware, June is the month dedicated to the LGBTQIAP+ community, globally known as Pride month. Before I proceed with the topic of this article, I would like to point out a few personal beliefs that should be for granted as well. Every June, people that belong to the LGBTQIAP+ community or people who support the community celebrate the right that every person is, first and foremost, a human being, with different beliefs, desires, and so on. Everyone deserves to love and be loved, no matter who they date, who they sleep with, and who they socialize with. “Love is love”, “love has no gender”, and “we are all human” need no explanation; it is high time we realized that.
I have been meaning to watch and review this movie for a very long time. But taking Pride month as a motive, I decided to do it now. Call Me by Your Name (2017) is one of the most known movies that touch upon the LGBTQIAP+ community. Luca Guadagnino, director of the movie and known for his I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015), presents André Aciman’s homonymous novel to the silver screen. Telling the love story of Oliver and Elio Perlman, Call Me by Your Name is a coming-of-age romantic drama, having been nominated a plethora of times (60, to be exact) and won 18 awards.
In the summer of 1983, “somewhere in Northern Italy”, as the movie says, Mr. Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor archaeologist that lives with his wife, Annella Perlman (Amira Casar), and their 17-year-old son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet). Every year, a student is chosen in terms of internship to help the professor with his academic work. That year, Oliver (Armie Hammer) was chosen. So, for six weeks, Oliver would stay at the Perlman residence, where a new relationship emerges between Oliver and Elio. Their relationship will flourish around long summer walks, endless dives into the sea and lake, and lots of love stares and antagonism from both sides.
And by antagonism, I refer to the constant “competition” between Oliver and Elio and their ego. Young Elio reluctantly flirts with Marzia (Esther Garrel) and noble Oliver — at first — does not seem interested — he observes, however, and is always around, commenting crucially.
In Guadagnino’s movie, sexuality is fluid; but love, the union of the movie’s protagonists, goes beyond their gender. But precisely because this is a story about the love between two men that are quite young, it has nothing from the trivial routine of the baseness of an ordinary romance, hence the reason this movie is so popular even 5 years later from its release. Elio and Oliver experience this love with all their being — not without obstacles, which they often put themselves — and this is what makes the movie so special. Guadagnino manages to get all the thrilling essence of this relationship from Aciman’s novel, leaving aside the excessive cerebralism or unnecessary lyricism and focusing on passion, depth, and pain. And if pain is something that seems to come as a seal of an end, Call Me by Your Name prefers to see a different aspect of it.
Emerging from a dreamy frost, it celebrates the simplicity of the mental approach and the passion for physical intermingling, without being consumed by class imbalances, temporal determinations, or geographical peculiarities, placed in the idealized harmony emanating from the natural beauty of Northern Italy.
Last but not least, we must talk about the element of the movie: love. Love is part of Elio’s sexual awakening, a part of his transformation from boy to man. And Guadagnino places human eroticism in a more general context: it is like summer nature framing Elio erotically, provoking his awakening, telling him that everything around him is eroticism. It is life, a call to begin to participate in the game that perpetuates life. It is everything.
Apart from eroticism, there is also love. That includes eroticism in its most complete form, but that is something else. Elio falls in love with Oliver and vice versa. And as lucky as those who happen to them at the same time, the same implies to those who are unlucky, living it without the condition of reciprocity, identification, or synchronicity. But what are the basic ingredients of love? What makes Elio feel that way about Oliver and what makes Oliver feel that way about Elio? What is love: a decision or an event?
First and foremost, it is a fact. It is something that happens in your absence. In full relation to who you are, who you have become, where you have come from, to everything you know and do not know about yourself, to everything you can and cannot imagine about him, but at the same time without you knowing anything. Whatever you think you understand, is in fact the retrospective attempt to interpret an event that happened to you without choosing it.
All in all, Call Me by Your Name is a true masterpiece. Both Ivory and Guadagnino take their sweetest time letting the two protagonists’ relationship evolve as those six weeks go by. It is not love at first sight. Or it might be. But we will never know. One thing that is for certain, though, is that love is present, but also love is absent.
- Call Me by Your Name (film), wikipedia.org, Available here
- “Call Me by Your Name”: An Erotic Triumph, newyorker.com, Available here
- Call Me By Your Name, rogerebert.com, Available here
- Call Me By Your Name review – gorgeous gay love story seduces and overwhelms, theguardian.com, Available here
- The Empty, Sanitized Intimacy of “Call Me by Your Name”, newyorker.com, Available here