Based on the book of the same name, although the ending of the film is completely different, Call Me By Your Name is a coming of age story set in the summer of 1983 with the glorious Northern Italian countryside playing a central role.
It is set during a whimsical summer of self discovery when Oliver (Armie Hammer) a doctorate student comes to stay at the country house of an antiquities professor. It is here that Oliver meets the young precocious and obnoxious Elio (Timothee Chalamet). The film follows Elio’s sexual awakening and Oliver’s attempt to restrain himself from giving in to his desires. The first hour allows the audience to fully immerse itself in the setting, which helps to evoke and inform our reaction to the carefree, heady summer days.
The essence of the film is the exploration of whether we should give in to our desires. The use of a 16th century German story where the central character asks “is it better to speak or die?” is used to full effect as the sexual tension grows between Oliver and Elio. Who will speak of their desire for the other? And the ‘will they or won’t they?’ is executed perfectly on-screen by the two actors, especially Chalamet. The film is both charming and funny with some tender moments, particularly in the final third of the film with Elio confused and scared by his feelings for Oliver, his father tells him softly: “how you live your life is your business.” This then giving Elio permission to be free.
It works well as a coming of age story and examination of how people communicate when they are unsure of the other’s feelings.