When I saw the trailer for Call Me by Your Name on Netflix, I dismissed it, branding it as a pretentious indie film for young adults. After hearing everyone sing its praises, I thought maybe I had been too hasty in casting my scathing judgement. After finishing the book and the film, I am still unsure of how to respond when people ask me what I thought. Not a good start for an opinion piece I hear you shriek. The film, although sticking pretty close to the action and events of the book, showed Elio and Oliver’s story completely differently. The first half of the book was dedicated almost entirely to Elio’s courtly lover ramblings, and the book only started to pick up the pace in its third section. In contrast, the film engages the viewer from the very start; the nature of film does not quite allow the same introspective one-sided view of their love affair. It depicts in much more depth other aspects of the story, such as the utopian Italian setting and the contextualisation of other characters.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether the director, Luca Guadagnino, had purposely miscast Oliver? Hammer, in his early 30s, was playing a 24 year old! This hefty mature man hanging around with a bunch of teenagers struck me as a major faux pas on the part of Guadagnino. Then I had a thought: had the director purposely cast these actors, visibly 9 years apart in age, in order to ensure that Elio and Oliver’s 6 year age gap, as well as Elio’s innocence, were not overlooked? The film closed with a four minute long clip of Elio crying, after Oliver tells him he is getting married. When watching this scene, I was aware that this is not merely the temporary pang of first love, but rather the beginning of Elio’s lifelong agony, demonstrated in the book. This is confirmed when Elio describes life without Oliver as a ‘coma’, when they meet later in life. This didn’t strike me as hearteningly romantic but rather devastatingly sad and a great waste of a life, particularly in the knowledge that Oliver’s life turned out completely differently. Although Elio’s enduring love for Oliver is in no way unrequited, Oliver does not describe his life as a ‘coma’ but as a ‘parallel life’, with a wife and children. This made me question whether Elio’s age played a big part in their contrasting fates.
Watching the film I was struck with a huge sense of nostalgia. It was shot in a filtered, dusty, dream-like lens, making the whole thing seem like it was, even as it was happening, a memory. And you know the trouble with memory - it cannot always be trusted to relay truth. I think Call Me By Your Name is not just about two people falling in love, but instead a film about the phenomenon of falling in love as a teenager. The great intensity which you feel; your innocence and the novelty of the feeling, intensifying and potentially clouding your emotions - a completely incomparable sensation to adult love.
In today’s day and age, technology plays such an integral role in making our lives simpler. Click and done! These apps will help if you find yourself at a dead end. They’ll just be there in your pocket guiding you through the otherwise daunting aspects of university life like getting lost or even finding an affordable place to hang out.