Call Me By Your Name: A sensual portrayal of first love


The violent Stonewall riots of June 28, 1969, are considered a significant milestone in the history of the gay rights movement in the US. It was a riot against the anti-gay legal system that existed in the 50's and 60's in the US, and is considered the birth of the gay liberation movement. The riots led to the formation of gay organisations and subsequently, on June 28, 1970, the first ever gay pride march in the world.

The Stonewall riots created ripples in Hollywood, too. The Boys in the Band (1970) was the first attempt to depict a gay relationship after the riots. The film, a milestone in the history of queer cinema, quashed many stereotypical notions about homosexuality. Almost 50 years since the landmark film, gay pride marches have become common. But, non-stereotypical free and realistic portrayal of gay relations on reel is still a rarity.

That's where Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name stands out. It is a frontrunner for the Academy Awards. Come March 4, the movie might bag a few awards in various categories. But, more than anything, it should be remembered as one of the most genuinely crafted films that normalises a same-sex relationship.

Set in northern Italy in a summer of 1983, it is a coming-of-age story of 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet), as he discovers the feeling of falling in love. He finds that in Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American scholar in his prime twenties, who comes to his house as his father's research assistant. Narrated in a languid, but emotional way, the film flows seamlesslywith no scene to forcibly explain or reason out Elio's desire for Oliver. Even sensuous scenes have been delicately dealt with.


Elio enjoys the status of an adult, but there is so much unformed in him. He shares a warm relation with his father Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is a professor specialising in Gerco-Roman Culture and archaeology. Archaeological artefacts of male bodies are used as effective props in telling what is going on in Elio's mind. One distinguishing factor that makes Call Me By Your Name different from a whole bunch of queer movies is the way parenthood is depicted in it. Perlman's monologue towards the climax is that of a father who completely understands and accepts the sexuality of his son.

The movie is an adaptation of a 2007 novel by Andre Aciman with the same name. James Ivory took around nine months to write the script. Aciman commented on the screenplay as “direct... real and persuasive.... they've done better than the book.” Chamalet's depiction of Elio, breathes life into the realism in the script.

Music is an important element in this movie. One may argue that it is his deft touches on his piano that paves Elio's way to Oliver's heart. The entire mood demanded by the film is set by the scores of Sufjan Stevens. It is the first time the multi-instrumentalist Sufjan who started his musical career in a folk-rock band has contributed soundtrack to any movie. His songs Mystery of Love, Visions of Gideon and a new rendition of Futile Devices from his album The Age of Adz, adds passion to the romance in the film. The Mystery of Love is in the race for the best original score at Oscars.

Call Me By Your Name got worldwide critical acclaim and is considered a sure bet for the Best Picture category by many. And, if it does win, it will be for the subtlety and genuine portrayal how the nature has “cunning ways in finding one's weakest points”.