Arts & Entertainment

'Call Me By Your Name' is Raw, Ravishing, and Romantic

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IMAGE Columbia Pictures
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Call Me By Your Name is one of the sexiest, most romantic, and most touching love stories of 2017. Equal parts sweet, idyllic, and seductive, the film explores the rawness of first love through the story of a summertime romance.

The film is set in 1983, somewhere in northern Italy—a setting that it captures beautifully. Every scene is postcard perfect. And while it’s clear that painstaking attention was paid to every shot, nothing never feels staged, and only ever serves the story in the best way. Shots of peaches and apricots and lush greenery make the landscape feel alive, fertile, and ripe for romance. It’s the perfect backdrop for falling in love.

Its other technical elements—notably, the score and wardrobe—move with the story. Musically, Call Me By Your Name goes from flirty and playful, to pensive, to melancholic. There’s even a visible progression in the main characters’ clothes, which change to reflect how they have affected each other: Elio bringing color to Oliver’s life, Oliver helping Elio transition from boyhood to adulthood.

When they call each other by their own names, it is as much an act of belonging as it is of becoming one, of claiming the other as it is of claiming oneself.

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The cast delivers crystal-clear acting on all fronts, proving that a whisper can be as powerful as a scream—that a big performance doesn’t always have to be loud. It’s hard not to be fixated on newcomer Timothée Chalamet, whose nuanced performance as the young Elio is heartachingly beautiful. An incredible range of emotions—longing, confusion, jealousy, lust, loneliness, and love—flicker across his features so naturally, in ways that anyone can relate to.

The impossibly tall, tan, and handsome Armie Hammer plays Oliver, young Elio’s object of affection, with an all-American self-possession. His studied nonchalance belies the fact that he’s hyper-aware of the effect he has on other people, especially on young Elio. Whether he’s explaining the etymology of the apricot or giving Elio an impromptu foot massage, he is self-assured and in control. It’s easy to see how the worldly but unsure 17-year-old would fall head over heels in love with him.

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The attraction between the two is almost immediate, but they both struggle with it in the beginning: Elio is still learning about who he is, still on the cusp of being and becoming. Meanwhile, Oliver is attracted and interested, but a bit hesitant. Despite all of it, they constantly test and tease each other—stolen glances and lingering touches, private piano recitals and bike rides around town—and a kind of coy courtship develops. Yet when the simmering sexual tension inevitably boils over, it’s still a surprising turn of events.

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The relationship that grows between them in the span of one summer is as intense and heady as most short-lived romances. But their love story is clearly more than just a summer fling for either of them. Their connection, though powerfully sensual, transcends the physical. When they call each other by their own names, it is as much an act of belonging as it is of becoming one, of claiming the other as it is of claiming oneself.

In one of Call Me By Your Name’s most poignant moments, Elio finds wisdom and comfort where he least expects it: his father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. Here, Stuhlbarg delivers a moving speech with eloquent restraint, speaking of acceptance, love, and heartbreak.

The movie ends with a long close-up that manages to convey so much without words, inviting the audience to recognize, and perhaps even relate to the film’s many emotions; and to realize that in the end, everything’s going to be just fine.

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Maggie Adan
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