‘Call Me By Your Name’ is the story of a crush. A love affair between Elio, a high schooler, and Oliver, a PhD student from the University that Elio’s father teaches at. There is a melancholic romantic tone in the novel’s writing style, which is duplicated expertly in the cinematography with sweeping vistas of the Italian countryside, and lengthy silences throughout the narrative.
The books narration has a beautiful cadence and reads like Elio’s journal, complete with inner musings, pontifications, daydreams and erotic fantasies. However I found it difficult to immerse myself into and speed-read the entire novel. The writing style did not sit well with me. It felt fanciful and full of itself… selfish. I found myself craving for more structure, more dialogue. For the film adaptation, with a slower pace too, but it worked a bit better because we get countryside and cinemaphotography to keep the viewer engaged.
Elio as a protagonist felt like a mix of intelligence, petulance, and aggressive/possessive hormone fuelled adolescence for the novel. However, the film version of Elio (played by Timothée Chalamet) feels a little more mature and less predatory – maybe because we are spared his inner monologue.
It felt uncomfortable the boy lusting after a man, Oliver, more than 7 years his senior. (This situation is legally statutory rape in our country.) Elio’s overtly flirtatious nature – and his intentions sometimes returned. A mix between grooming behaviour of a paedophile from Oliver and removing himself from the equation as to not be overcome by his desires. The teacher in me felt extremely uncomfortable. Elio and Oliver wouldn’t be sneaking around and trying to hide their actions if they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong.
Then in the novel, Oliver gives in to his desires and confirms to me of being the paedophile he is. Elio has regret, then turns into a tremendous flirt only to then go and have sex with Mariza… completely ruled by his lower region. What a floozy. This book is making me feel sick where everyone is throwing their cat around and ignoring the ramifications. For having such an inconsolable crush on Oliver, when Elio sleeps with Marzia on a whim and apparently likes it, wants to brag about it. No loyalty, no conviction. This increased my loss of respect for Elio. We get some detail in the film adaptation with this encounter, its clumsy and short (realistic) but what is it with Elio then chasing after Oliver straight after having sex with Marzia? (Esther Garrel) That’s effed up. Elio comes across as insensitive. Considering this is a romantic/erotic tale and the book gets explicit at times, the film is not as sexually charged as the book.
Oliver (played by Armie Hammer) makes the first move (pedo) in the film adaptation and Elio becomes sexually aggressive out of the blue. It did not feel like there was a build-up of tension or feeling between the two. Oliver is an idiot for instigating the encounter and then citing he couldn’t do any more so they had nothing to be ashamed of. Then it seems his mother gives him permission to start a relationship with a grown man… what tha?! Besides the nature of this story all the actors gave a beautiful and believable portrayal and I feel added further nuance to the story I did not get out of the novel.
Did they seriously watch each other pooh and marvel at it in the toilet bowl. *retching sounds* The other thing that had me throwing up in my mouth is of Oliver eating the peach that Elio had climaxed into. Some may see it as twistedly romantic in a symbolic way, but I couldn’t bet over the hygienic aspect of it. I am such a clean freak. I want to scream triggered! It’s hilarious in a meta perspective. The pooh scene is omitted in the film version of ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ and the peach scene is much more subtle (Oliver does not eat the peach though.) However there are a few scenes that jumped out at me that did not appear in the novel version: The dancing scene had me in stitches. Plus, Elio and his friends smoke a lot. Ew! But I guess it translates well for the time period this story is set in (1980’s) and the European town. Adding to that, we also see a lot of underage drinking.
There was an understated – delicate even – understanding of Elio’s father which I found endearing in the novel. However his hands-off approach leaves little to be desired. I would have preferred a father figure to help educate and guide Elio, instead of leaving his son to flounder around in the dark and figure things out by himself, and potentially placing him in dangerous situations. Elio’s father’s talk in the film adaptation makes you realise he treats Elio like an adult shows that his parents did not view their relationship as paedophilia. Father confesses he loved a man once too. Again, an excellent portrayal by Michael Stuhlbarg.
For the film he translation of the story Elio’s mum (Amira Casar) reads makes and important turning point in the story – giving Elio permission to talk about his feelings… and something I don’t remember occurring or standing out to me (maybe because I ended up skim-reading the book)
I can appreciate the romantic symbolism, the artistic eye, but the situation in the real world kinda makes me angry. It’s not about being gay, but about placing a boy in a sexually vulnerable situation where the parents do not seem to care, (in fact they encourage Elio to find his sexuality and explore) and an older man allegedly grooming a high school student – even if he wrestles with his conscience – grosses me out. If this were about two boys around the same age I would have liked it so much better. I feel the artistic tone of the writing covers up the reality of how inappropriate this relationship is. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ feels like a gay version of ‘Lolita.’
SPOILERS: Oliver got engaged?? This book/film is so messed up. The build-up for this relationship. The forbidden love of it all and then they both move on so quickly. It’s hard to believe they were in love – rather lust – because the events belie the tone of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’
Where the book and film both left me feeling a little unsettled, the film was also sad in a kind of way, both in tone and storyline.
I will not recommend this. There was no lesson to learn from the characters – the whole book read like some teen boy’s father-figure sexual fantasy. I couldn’t get over the age difference, one of them being an underage boy to be able to appreciate the love story, or the coming of age aspect. I was uncomfortable the entire time. I won’t be reading the sequel ‘Find Me’ either – after reading reviews and how it deals with more fantasy gratification adultery, I’m sorry, I just can’t.
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