Following Moonlight’s dramatic 2017 Best Picture win, this year could see another gay romance winning the Oscar. Call Me by Your Name received four nominations in total, including Best Picture.
Truly more a coming-of-age story than a gay romance, Call Me by Your Name follows 17-year-old Elio in what proves to be the formative summer of his life. Elio, superbly played by Timothée Chalamet who receives an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, is vacationing in an Italian villa with his parents. His father (Michael Stuhlbarg) being a professor, and his mother (Amira Casar) a translator, it is no surprise that Elio is gifted. He is fluent in three languages and passes his time transcribing music, reading, and having a flirtation with a local French girl (Ester Garrel). Every summer the family hosts a graduate student to assist Elio’s father in his research, and this summer brings Oliver (Armie Hammer) to the villa. It is Oliver who serves as the catalyst for Elio’s maturation.
Summers in the villa are filled with warmth and energy, with the French-Doors opening on to the garden, which is rich in apricots and also where the family takes their meals. Oliver relishes entering such an idyllic environment, greedily inhaling a glass of fresh apricot juice he is handed, and the audience is similarly invited to indulge itself. Life in this small Italian village is liberating with conversations between friends passing from English to Italian and French with ease, and doors rarely being shut (regardless of certain sexually charged instances insisting otherwise). Above all, the film captures a feeling of spontaneity, illustrated by Elio’s piano playing. He plays and replays the same song but seems to be incapable of playing it the same way, changing the piece each time he plays it. This fluidity extends to the soundtrack which is free-flowing and lucid, and to the camera-work which is loose as it explores the scenery, indulging our desire to look around and take in the environment.
The film is an unconventional coming-of-age story in that rather than positing change as the means by which Elio can mature, it affirms that Elio doesn’t need to change. As the title suggests, it is through recognising the ways in which he is already similar to Oliver, that Elio truly grows. It is significant that Elio’s parents are academics, as the film is emphatic about the transference of knowledge. In a film which so appeals to the senses, the real highlight is a toned-down scene where Elio sits down with his father to receive a piece of sage advice.
A strong contender for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, Call Me by Your Name maintains that love, principally self-love, comes from understanding.
Image credit: Franz Richter via Wikimedia Commons