8 March 2018



'Call me by your name and I'll call you by mine.'

This is an absolutely gorgeous and compelling film. It kept me pretty much mesmerised for the whole two hours and twelve minutes of its duration, but there's much in it to make you uncomfortable as well.

And it all hinges around one issue, really, which is whether or not you think a lad of seventeen is still a child who needs protection from himself and others, or a mature adult who can think for himself and decide if he's ready for a full-blown sexual relationship. With another man. An older man, lol. Does that change things? Who knows? We'll have a look at the plot anyway, see what we make of it.

It's 1983 and seventeen-year-old teen Elio Perlman is spending a gloriously lazy summer in his rich family's villa in Italy. Isn't it well for some? He's a Jewish American-Italian lad who speaks both French and English in this film. Elio's Dad is a well-known and respected professor of Classics and Archaeology and the family, consisting of Elio, his sister, his Mum and his Dad, are all annoyingly multi-lingual.

There's a fabulous scene where Elio, his Dad and Oliver (of whom more in a minute) go on an archaeology trip to view an old statue from ancient times that's been found in the sea. The battered statue is just awe-inspiring. It could have come right out of Ancient Greece or Rome.

It made me think of Zeus and Hera and all the lads- and lasses!- up on Mount Olympus having a grand old time while we mere mortals scurried around frantically down here like ants, attempting to go about our daily business while the gods and goddesses snickered at the futility of our petty endeavours. Yeah, that's what they did. They was bitches.

While Dad potters about reading his books, drinking wine and studying his bits of old statuary, Mum drinks wine and sunbathes out in the fabulous grounds and the sister goes off somewhere bicycling with friends. She might be drinking wine as well for all we know. It certainly seems to be the done thing, anyway.

Elio swims in the villa's stunning pool (it's not a hotel-type pool, it's cut out of the rock in the garden!), reads books or transcribes the music he loves. He's a bit of a musical prodigy in fact. He also hangs out with his girlfriend Marzia, a girl who loves him maybe better than he deserves.

Into this idyllic, lazy hazy summer scene comes Oliver, a handsome Jewish American scholar and graduate student who's going to be the Professor's intern for the summer. Elio seems both fascinated and frightened by Oliver from the start.

They swim together, go on bike rides together around the beautiful sunny countryside, eat together out-of-doors (they all eat out-of-doors in the gorgeous garden all the time, out in the sunshine with their wine and fruit and crusty baguettes and their intellectual conversations) and share a bathroom. This is all done with the lads wearing only the minimum of clothing. Well, it's summer in sunny Italy after all...!

They each make moves which get rejected by the other. They each show interest in other people too. Oliver kisses a woman at a local disco. I doubt if Elio will ever forget the sight of his crush dancing- badly but passionately- to the music of The Psychedelic Furs, dancing as if no-one else exists in the world but him and the music. That's the way dancing should be, if you ask me. It's a very potent scene.

Elio has sex for the first time with the pretty Marzia, who's only too happy to have his full attention. But is Elio doing it because he loves her back? I doubt it somehow. His head is full of Oliver. He loves Oliver.

Is he trying to make the older man jealous? Or trying to take his mind off Oliver? It's probably a combination of all of these things. Either way, poor Marzia is shocked by how fast she's dumped after the sex. Welcome to the real world, love...!

When Elio and Oliver finally stop dancing around each other and get it together enough to
have sex with each other, they're happy but Elio looks so much like a teenage boy hugging his dad or older brother that it was a bit uncomfortable to watch.

Elio is so thin and baby-faced, with the mop of dark curly hair no European teenage boy in films is ever seen without. He wears little boyish boxer shorts and little boyish regular shorts and his little backpack looks like a wee schoolbag. Is he old enough for this kind of ultra-complicated sexual relationship?

Elio's Dad doesn't bat an eyelid when Elio talks openly about his sex life with Marzia. Maybe in Europe kids mature earlier. We already know that they're experienced connoisseurs of fine wines and suchlike by the time they leave school. The Perlmans certainly seem to have a liberal attitude towards sex and a policy of total openness when it comes to talking about it.

The thing is, I was sure that the parents, agreeable to the notion of their precious son having so-called normal sexual relations with a girl his own age, would freak out at the notion of an older man having designs on Elio. The opposite, in fact, turns out to be the case. 

When I think of how uptight my own parents were on the subject of sex, it shocks me to see how liberal the Perlmans are. Mind you, there's no-one as uptight about sex as an elderly Irish Catholic parent. They certainly never invited an attractive older man into the house for the summer and then smiled benignly while he, um, had sex with their only son.

I was never told the facts of life by my parents. I picked up bits-and-pieces from the other girls in my school like everyone else my age, lol. School Biology classes were all but useless. The teacher would drone on endlessly about the sperm meeting the egg (where, exactly? At a bar in town?) but these dry facts didn't seem to have any application to our real lives and bodies.

Most of what I now know about sex I learned at University, lol. There's nothing like being away from home for the first time, away from the shackles of dreary familial rules and regulations, to help a girl learn about men and life. And learn I did, but I never stop making mistakes. That's the thing about education. You're never done learning.

Anyway, let's set aside the rights and wrongs of Oliver's and Elio's situation for a moment. As a summer romance movie, it captures wonderfully the magical nights and moments and experiences the newly-created couple share in those heady few months. Oliver dancing his heart out at the disco that night while Elio watches is a scene I'll never forget. It captures that feeling of an unforgettable summer moment perfectly.

The pain of the summer romance ending is caught here brilliantly as well. Everyone knows the pain of a first love ending, unless you're lucky enough to have married your first love and stayed with them ever since. But how many people are that sensible?

I remember walking by the river in the rain when my first real love affair came to a cruel end. It might sound poetic but, trust me, it wasn't. It was downright miserable, tears and raindrops melting together on my blotchy red face. The first cut is the deepest, isn't that what they say? They're not wrong.

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME is a glorious watch. I completely forgot my own problems while I was watching it, lol. If you want to be reminded of the bitter-sweet pain and longing and heady passion of a first love and the inevitable parting, watch this film.

With an 'Eighties- and classical- soundtrack (Psychedelic Furs with Love My Way, F.R. David singing Words Don't Come Easy) to accompany the angsty uncertainties and the magnificent certainties of the doomed summer romance, this film is a surefire winner. By the way, Elio my lad, peaches are for eating. Nothing else. You hear me, boy...?

Available to Buy and Keep 26th February
Out on Blu-ray and DVD 5th March

4 Oscar® Nominations including Best Picture & Best Actor
4 BAFTA® Nominations including Best Film & Best Actor

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has been nominated for 4 Oscars® including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Chalamet), Best Adapted Screenplay (James Ivory) and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures - Original Song (Sufjan Stevens).  In addition the film has received 4 BAFTA® nominations including Best FilmBest Leading Actor (Chalamet), Best Screenplay - Adapted (James Ivory) and the David Lean Award for Direction (Luca Guadagnino). 
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has a running time of approx. 2 hours 12 minutes
and is rated 15.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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