I went to a showing of Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name, which is an adaptation of a novel of the same name written by André Aciman, on Sunday, March 11.
It’s been three days, and I still can’t stop thinking about this story.
It’s a love story between 17-year-old Elio and 24-year-old Oliver, two young men who internally struggle with their sexuality and religion.
I am going to spoil a bit of the story, mainly by saying what does not happen. So if that bothers you, I’d read on with caution. Though, I promise it’s not too much of a spoiler.
To be honest, I went into the movie having only read half of the book because I didn’t want to miss its theater run. By that point, I was enjoying the book. Aciman’s first-person narrative is a specimen of poetic prose, which details the most private inner musings of a young man in such a free, unashamed manner.
The film takes this raw intimacy and highlights it. The film heightens it, even. The cinematography alone is captivating, and each shot is composed so beautifully. The accompanying music further pushes each scene into a sort of high artistic quality.
The acting is a joy to watch, and each character (especially the background actors) were believable. There were times where I felt that the scripted dialogued was just a tad wooden, but only in one or two lines. Otherwise, the acting was great.
The intimacy and the chemistry between Armie Hammer (Oliver) and Timothée Chalamet (Elio) were outstanding. It was never hard to watch them interacting, especially not in the more intimate scenes.
One of the things I enjoyed most about this film was how unabashed it is in its telling of the love that blossoms between two men. These characters aren’t persecuted for being gay– no one gets sick, beaten, or punished. And I was waiting for it by the end of the movie. I was ready to watch one of them die because that’s what always happens in movies about gay people. Then… it didn’t happen. They are just two people who fall in love and navigate that path honestly.
This leads me to another thing I enjoyed about the film– how it never turned political. How it was not about gay freedom, about gay this or that. It never exploited homosexuality or turned it into something salacious for audiences to feast their eyes upon. It was subtle and true. It was a simple love story. It just happened to be about two men. It didn’t jump out and scream “I’M GAY! HIIIII!” which I feel many hetero spectators now expect of these types of things. All in all, it felt normal and mainstream. I think that’s what I appreciated the most.
In fact, in a lot of the interviews, Guadagnino talks about how he wanted to transform the Otherness of homosexuality into something normal. He wanted to make it a focal point without being ashamed of it, or without being exploitative with it. I would say he succeeded in this.
The story deals a lot with themes of young love, the obsession of attraction, the relationship between sexuality and religion, and the inner struggle around giving in to desire. And despite your religion, sexuality, orientation, identification, etc, the themes are universal. The story rings true and relatable to everyone.
The film adaption did a great job of translating the book, and I felt that Guadagnino did a great job of bringing the literary references and metaphors into the film.
This film was beautiful and moving. It instantly jumped right up to the top of my favorites list. Like I said before, it’s been days and I can’t get the story out of my head. I feel like I’m still trying to recover emotionally.
It’s a story I won’t soon forget, if ever. I am so appreciative of the writer, the director, the actors, and everyone else who contributed to bringing this story into our world and pushing it. It’s so important.
I encourage everyone to watch this film or read the book. Do both.
— J. S.