Call Me by Your Name is a 2017 romantic coming-of-age drama film based on one of my all time favorite novels. The book, Call Me by Your Name written by André Aciman, is one of the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read. Its message touched my heart years ago before I even experienced what it meant to fall in love with someone. The title became even more meaningful to me once I experienced a relationship that closely resembled the one described in Aciman’s story.
The story takes place in Europe. Set in Northern Italy in 1983, Call Me by Your Name shares the story of the romantic relationship between Elio Perlman, a 17-year-old living in Italy, and his father’s American assistant, Oliver. Elio is a young Jewish-American boy living in the Italian countryside with his parents. His father, a renowned professor of archaeology, invites a Jewish-American graduate named Oliver to work on his academic papers while staying with their family during the summer of 1983.
Elio is an introspective, musical prodigy. On the surface, it feels as though he has very little in common with Oliver, whose carefree and ebullient personality greatly contrasts with Elio’s. At first, Elio resents Oliver for causing him to vacate his bedroom for the duration of Oliver’s stay. Elio spends much of his summer reading books and hanging out with his girlfriend, Marzia. Interestingly enough, Elio begins to feel chagrined when Oliver starts to fall for one of the local girls. A spark between the two of them is ignited.
As Elio and Oliver begin to spend time with each other, a seductive courtship emerges. Their summer adventures lead them into a spiral of confusing and ambiguous feeling of affection for each other. They swim together, go for long walks through the town, and even accompany Elio’s father on an archeological trip. To gauge Oliver’s reaction, Elio brags about his sexual relationship with Marzia in front of him. He increasingly finds himself feeling attracted to Oliver.
During a trip to the post office, Elio confessed his feelings to Oliver who initially tells him not to act on them. The next day, when they go swimming, Elio kisses Oliver who returns the kiss but is reluctant to go any further. They grow distant during the next few days.
In response to a note written by Elio, Oliver leaves a note on Elio’s desk telling Elio to meet him at midnight. Elio spends the day with Marzia longing to see Oliver at night. Finally, midnight approaches and the two meet. That night, they sleep together for the first time. During the next few days, they grow closer while keeping their relationship a secret. In bed, Oliver famously tells Elio, “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,” coining the title of the story. Completely smitten with Oliver, Elio grows comfortable in his own skin. The two lovers become even more intimate as time goes on. The movie even included its own adaptation of the famous peach scene.
When the end of Oliver’s stay is near, the couple finds themselves overcome with uncertainty and longing. (God, do I know that feeling well.) Elio’s parents recognize the unspoken relationship they’ve developed. His parents insist the two men take a trip together to Bergamo before Oliver returns to America. They spend three romantic days together, after which Oliver must leave and a heartbroken Elio must return home. 😭
When Elio calls him mom to ask her to please pick him up because he is unable to make the trip back home alone, tears began to pool up in my eyes. I looked at Elio but all I could see was myself. I heard my mom’s voice, saw her face, and on Elio’s, I saw my own. It was my mom who came to my rescue and all I can say is thank god for that. A goodbye of this kind carries a pain unlike any other. I understood Elio’s tears in a way so few can.
Upon returning home, Marzia is understanding of what happened and is willing to remain friends with Elio. His father, seeing how forlorn his son is feeling, lets Elio know he was aware of his affair with Oliver. His father confessed to having had his own love affair with a friend in his youth. He urges Elio to find pleasure in his grief since true love of the kind Elio and Oliver shared is quite rare.
During Hanukkah, Elio receives a phone call from Oliver. Oliver shares with Elio and his family that he is engaged and to be married. After they hang up the phone, Elio sits by the fire. A parade of emotions cross his face as his parents prepare a holiday dinner.