Ten years after its release by André Aciman, director Luca Guadagnino adapted the novel, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, into the 2017 film. The film explores the romantic relationship between Elio (Timothée Chalamet) and Oliver (Armie Hammer) that changes both their lives forever.

Stripped to its bare bones, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is a coming-of-age tale. Seventeen-year-old Elio goes on a personal journey of self-discovery and exploration. As a result, we witness a film full of intimate details. Let’s explore these details that produce a film so rich in meaning that it will stay with you.

call me by your name
Timothée Chalamet as Elio with Armie Hammer as Oliver

The Journey to Discovery

Elio is a seventeen-year-old Italian-American. He resides in the countryside of Northern Italy with his mother and father, the latter being a professor of archaeology. Every summer, the family hosts a graduate student. They spend six weeks in their home, providing them the opportunity to experience the culture of Italy and progress their education. This summer, the summer of 1983, features the arrival of an American student named Oliver.

Elio is an avid reader who is quite musically inclined. With this though, he comes off as a reserved young man. Well, that is until he begins spending more time with Oliver. He is a fellow young man who exudes a vibrant, carefree personality. As a result of their budding relationship, Elio begins to learn more about himself.

This occurs as a result of his similarities, and differences with his new houseguest. Elio comes from a Jewish background. However, he does not consider himself to be a practicing Jew. Oliver, on the other hand, wears a Star of David necklace and openly talks about his Jewish background, even referring to his grandmother as “Bubbe.”

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Soon after the two begin growing close, Elio begins wearing his own Star of David necklace. He also becomes more expressive with his parents, embracing them in the morning, thus growing more extroverted. As a young man, Elio certainly struggled with identifying himself. Sure, he is continuously depicted as a lover of books and an excellent musician throughout the film.

The question that the film raised though is, who is Elio beyond these talents? His relationship with Oliver thus sparks the birth of his true nature, one that is no longer projected internally in his reserved self. Now, he feels free to showcase his talents and characteristics and, most importantly, feel confident in them.

call me by your name
Oliver, Oliver

The Sharp Knife of Sorrow

The crux of the plot of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is the transcendence of love and desire. In one scene, Elio’s father and Oliver are analyzing various, ancient sculptures. They observe the sensual nature of these works of art that encapsulates the artists’ expression of feeling. Thus, it is worth noting that the artists’ ultimately used the medium of sculpture to immortalize their desire. By doing this, their love transcends the bounds of time.

This motif is paralleled throughout CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. Though the film takes place in 1983, much of the tone and some of the soundtrack feels modern. This aspect of the film may perhaps be most apparent in the lyrics of the film’s original song, Mystery of Love by Sufjan Stevens.

The first three verses of the song state, “Oh, to see without my eyes / The first time that you kissed me / Boundless by the time I cried.” The song itself retains the tale of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. As a result, the music of the film serves an omniscient narrator to the story. Additionally, it preserves the relationship between Elio and Oliver in its lyrics, presenting their 1983 love affair as a tale that is very much relevant in the modern age.

call me by your name
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Call Me By Your Name, And I’ll Call You By Mine

There will without a doubt be various interpretations of the title of the film as well as Oliver’s decision to call Elio by his name and vice versa. To me, it was a form in which the two could keep the intimacy of their relationship amongst themselves. When Oliver returns to the United States, all traces of his existence are removed from Elio’s life.

All that remains are the memories. However, Elio’s own name has some of Oliver’s existence. With this, no one else will understand the gravity that exists within Elio’s own name. Thus, the intimacy between the two deepens in addition to the secret of their love that is safely hidden within their respective names.

call me by your name
Elio, Elio, Elio

A Land to Die For

The setting of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is quite beautiful. It is rich and refreshing, paralleling Elio and Oliver’s own relationship. The land of Northern Italy from its apricot trees to its bodies of open water present an engaging atmosphere. The audience is able to truly submerge themselves in this vibrant setting, one that also exudes freedom. When Oliver initially asks Elio what he does in this setting, Elio simply states that he goes swimming or reads books upon books under a tree. As a result, this place has no bounds.

The two are free to submit to their fantasies. Outside of this landscape, Oliver lives in America and marries a young woman. Elio maintains the memory of Oliver. In the present though, the two are free to forget the bounds of the real world. However, one may be less willing to acknowledge reality than the other.

call me by your name
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The Mystery of Love

I have seen Armie Hammer in various roles before. None of them have left the impression his performance in this film left me. Hammer seamlessly blends in with the Northern Italian landscape as Oliver. Also, his exuberance is appealing. Most importantly though, his scenes with Chalamet as Elio exude a richness that elevates the poignancy of the film.

In my perception of the film, Hammer portrays Oliver as a man who cares deeply for Elio. However, each moment he spends with Elio is spent with one foot out the door. Oliver is very much aware of the pair’s limited amount of time. He knows he will never come back to visit Elio and his parents despite his claims that he will do so at the end of the film. Oliver knows that there is essentially no future for him and Elio.

Of course, Elio is very much aware of this fact as well. However, he certainly maintains more optimism until the two’s final days together. It is during that time period that Elio breaks down in Oliver’s arms, imploring him not to leave. Elio had kept the reality of their romance tucked away in his mind. Oliver maintained their relationship with that reality right before his eyes.

call me by your name
The final scene.

What Lies Beyond

There have been talks of a sequel to CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. The 2007 novel features an encounter between Elio and Oliver fifteen and twenty years after their romantic relationship. Is a sequel a good idea though in regard to the poignancy of this films’ plot?

In my opinion, the last scene maintains a lot of finalities. Elio has finally accepted the ephemeral nature of his relationship with Oliver in reality. However, upon hearing Oliver’s final words to him, “I remember everything,” Elio has hope that his memory of Oliver will never fade within his memory.

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This film presents a pure and powerful presentation of first love. As a result, it would be interesting to see how a sequel would handle the thematic elements of its predecessor. In the meantime though, we can certainly appreciate the quality of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. Most importantly though, if you have yet to see the film, definitely check it out and prepare for a moving experience.

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