“Call me by your name” looks like the story of a summer romance between Elio, a 17-year-old American-Italian boy, and Oliver, an American doctoral student.
The novel, by André Aciman, is narrated in first person by Elio and we directly get to hear his thoughts and memories from his adolescence, feeling all his confusion, nostalgia and maybe regrets.
The film, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is an amazing adaptation of the book starring Timothée Chalamet as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver.
If you haven’t read it/watched it, these are a few reasons to do so:
The story takes place in northen Italy, at the end of the 1980s. The book and the film both transmit perfectly what is like to spend a summer in Italy as a student. The life in the village, going to the river (or to the sea, depending where you live), the nights with friends at the bar, the home remedies for sunstrokes, leaving home on your bike in the morning and going back only to eat and nap, our sweet breakfasts… I could go on forever.
And then, Rome. This is only in the book, because in the film Elio and Oliver visit Bergamo, but the way André Aciman describes our capital is magical. A multicultural, vibrant and modern city immersed in the wonderful heritage of the Roman Empire.
If you can’t visit Italy, you will be able to live it a little by reading this novel or watching the film.
2. The cultural context
Elio and Oliver are both Jewish. They love music, literature and philosophy, and they discuss, quote books and express their opinions on things continuosly. They have brilliant minds and are truly well-educated. Reading this novel (or watching the movie) could be of some inspiration to look better into the literary pieces they mention or the history of that period.
Our main character is a piece of work. While reading the book I got the impression he might not be a reliable narrator, because of the way his thoughts flew relentessly and were often influenced by his judgement and opinion.
Adolescent Elio is extremely confused and insecure and personally made me think “thank God those years of my life are over”. In the film, all of this is represented thanks to Timothée Chalamet’s astonishing performance. He’s the perfect Elio.
4. The relationship between Elio and Oliver
At the beginning of this post I described the relationship between Elio and Oliver as a summer romance. Well, I lied (lol). The story takes place mostly during the summer of 1987, and indeed the relationship between Elio and Oliver starts and evolves during that period, but it actually never ends. Rather than a summer romance, we are facing an undying love in all its beauty and with all its consequences.
5. The emotional involvement
This story is just powerful. Both the novel and the film have the ability to involve the reader/audience deeply, in a positive and in a negative way. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just entrust further explanations to the most beautiful, true and heartbreaking line of the book.
If you remember everything, and if you are really like me, just this once, turn to me, and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name