Call Me By Your Name: New York Film Festival (Review)

When we fall in love with someone for the first time, we often glamorize their image. Romanticize their memory. Fantasize about the traces they left behind. In the case of Call Me By Your Name, we fall in love for the first time and we begin to learn how to fall in love with ourselves at the same time.

This past weekend, my good friend Nathalie and I traveled down to New York for the encore screening of Call Me By Your Name, the film adaptation of the novel by André Aciman, at the New York Film Festival. I had heard that the novel was being adapted into a film almost a year ago, and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. I never got the chance until this past summer. Once I found out the film had received an encore showing for October 15th, I immediately thought of Nathalie and bought two tickets without a single thought towards my upcoming midterms and papers.

Aciman’s writing is poetic and it’s easy to lose yourself in his words, with the main character Elio Perlman taking us through the first time he fell in love in Italy. For six weeks during the summer, Elio’s family takes in an academic guest to spend time and study with his father, an esteemed professor of Greco culture. In the story, an intimate, passionate, and seemingly forbidden love affair blossoms between Elio and their 24-year-old American summer guest of 1983, Oliver.

Since the book is mainly told from inside of 17-year-old Elio’s head, we are constantly exposed to what he sees, what he thinks, and what he wants. Transfo rming the inside of Elio’s head into a film should be no easy task, but the director, Luca Guadagnino, was not daunted by this endeavor. While some characters that were vital in the book were left out and certain events were changed to accommodate the 2 hour, 12 minute run time, the film was just as poetically beautiful and captivating as Aciman’s writing. Total silence enveloped the theater as the ending credits began to roll, many people in the audience hesitantly wiping quiet tears from their faces.

Leaving the theater, Nat and I were speechless, trying to figure out how to talk about the movie. Without giving away too many spoilers, all I can say is that we gushed over the movie for hours after we saw it last night and we still can’t stop thinking about it this morning. I’m already planning on seeing the movie again and again and again and again when it hits theaters, even though it is an emotionally draining piece of art.

It’s the kind of movie that makes you want to spend an adventurous summer in Europe, roaming around the warm streets at night and falling in love. It makes you want to believe that love is magical and incredible, even if it is inevitably painful. The film does not shy away from the uncomfortable honesty about obsessive love and the gut-wrenching ache of heartbreak, so you become forced to feel what the characters feel.

But as Elio’s father, Mr. Perlman, so poignantly says in both the film and the novel: “But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”