The opening credits of Call Me By Your Name feature images of ancient Greek and Roman statues. They are various depictions of young men, their naked likeness preserved smooth in stone with sensual curves. Anyone who’s seen Michelangelo’s David understands the concept. Throughout the film, our stars seem to take on the likeness of these statues. They often walk around clad in only thin shorts under the Italian summer sun and apricot trees. It isn’t meant to be arousing or explicit, but a natural depiction of life in its prime.
In 1983, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is seventeen and spending the summer with his parents in northern Italy. There isn’t much to do besides lounge, swim in the river, bike into town and read. Life here seems like an idyllic paradise away from the rest of the world. Elio’s father is a professor, studying and cataloging unearthed statues. For this task, a student comes to live with the family, Oliver (Armie Hammer). After a rocky start, Elio and Oliver strike up a friendship that slowly becomes more and more intimate and eventually sexual.
Though I mentioned nudity earlier, I would not call the nudity or sex scenes in Call Me By Your Name explicit. The tension and passions expressed between Elio and Oliver are more emotional than primal. During their first night together, the camera slowly pans away out the window, giving our lovers some privacy. Images of their soft curves entwined in the morning, and one scene involving an alternate use for a peach, is as graphic as this story of sexual awakening gets.
Right now, Call Me By Your Name is nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Timothée Chalamet is nominated for best actor in a leading role, his first ever nomination at just twenty-two years old. The film is also nominated for best adapted screenplay and for its best original song, Mystery of Love.
What truly resonates after Call Me By Your Name is over is this story of first experiencing love on such an emotional level that it can break your heart but not leave you bitter. There is a scene towards the end where Elio gets some of the best advice a young person in his situation can get. I think that scene and that speech is what sealed the film’s Best Picture status.
“How you live your life is your business, just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once. And before you know it, your heart is worn out, and, as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it.”