‘Call me by your Name’ tastes sweetly of forbidden love


Ethan Hayes

Bold and boundless, creative and crippling, nostalgic, noteworthy and noble are all words that faithfully capture the 2017 release of the film, Call Me by Your Name, which opened at Ragtag this weekend.
This coming of age indie film promises to destroy and rebuild your heart in the frame of two hours and 12 minutes. The setting is northern Italy beginning in the summer of 1983 and ending the following winter. The main character, Elio Perlman, played by Timothée Chalamet, is a 17-year-old boy who finds himself in a complex but heartwarming relationship with his father’s research assistant, Oliver, played by Armie Hammer.
The initial impression we have of Elio can be characterized best as distant and arrogant with an overall sour appeal all of which are manifested in the guy’s poor attitude and rotten look. Elio begins as the icon you love to hate as he is the manifestation of everyone’s terrible teen years. His sarcasm, melodramatics and smugness are the dominating elements of his personality for the preliminary 40 minutes of the film and the antipathy viewers have towards the character is immediate.
Of course a viewer’s passion for a character is the reflection of the skill the actor demonstrates while playing the character, demonstrated by Chalamet who runs with it the whole film. The teenager the 22-year-old Chalamet presents shows the ups and downs of Elios struggle with his fading adolescence.
Chalamet shines by taking this early impression of a one-dimensional, shallow, 17-year-old spoiled brat and turning it into a complex, multi-dimensional character with a broad range of understanding and interpretations. This roller coaster of character development for Elio occurs because of Elio’s friendship with Oliver. As their relationship matures, so does Elio’s sense of self and sensibilities while Oliver assists in shedding the last fragments of his boyhood.
A foil to Elio’s downing demeanor is a sweet balancing force represented by Hammer’s Oliver. As a manifestation of an all-American hero, Oliver plays his role bravely by saving Elio from not only himself, but those around him who suppress his true colors.
Despite the ever changing emotional turmoil of the film, we see a constant variable carefully utilized throughout the film: the raw beautiful land of Italy. The scenery of Northern Italy is a cinematic marvel almost becoming a character unto itself. Lush green grass, bright sunshine and crystal clear blue waters bring the experience of this Northern Italy paradise into a reality for the viewer. One can’t take his eyes off the film; whether it is because of Hammer’s charismatic charm or Chalamet’s sinful smile, viewers are engulfed by their attraction to the big screen.
As if that weren’t enough, director Luca Guadagnino perfectly compliments the characters personalities with the already perfect Italian scenery. Special effects are  never needed in this film as the beautiful northern Italian countryside provides a perfect natural environment for movie magic. The director purposefully utilizes Elio and Oliver’s adventures which capture features of the breathtaking environment through biking in tall grass fields, swimming in various mystical lagoons, and hiking a mountainous terrain the film brings a little slice of Italy to the viewer.
The revenant layout of the land combined with the classic style Italian architecture goes hand in hand with the film.
The movie’s plot really brings this picture into the heart of the audience. It begins in a linear progressive fashion showcasing the infancy of our main character Elio while also laying the groundwork for the various climatic moments of the film that will leave the viewer in wanting for more screen time. The middle is really where the content in the film really comes to fruition and will happen unexpectedly and suddenly. There are plenty of “plants” throughout that have payoff in the last moments when we have been reminded of the bitter price of adulthood and how it changes us.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think? If not, you can watch it here.