Follow TV Tropes


Film / Call Me by Your Name

Go To
"Is it better to speak or to die?"

Oliver: You know more than anyone around here.
Elio: If you only knew how little I know about the things that really matter.

Call Me By Your Name is a 2017 coming-of-age romantic drama film directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by James Ivory, based on the novel of the same name by André Aciman. The film is the final installment in Guadagnino's thematic Desire trilogy, following I Am Love and A Bigger Splash.

Set in Northern Italy during the summer of 1983, Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is a 17-year-old boy expecting to spend another summer idly reading, transcribing and playing music, hanging out with childhood friends, and hosting an unknown American graduate student coming to work with his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg).

The student turns out to be Oliver (Armie Hammer), an attractive 24-year-old who shares Elio's Jewish heritage. While he is initially put off by Oliver's demeanor, and Oliver feels likewise about him, the two find that their first impressions mask a deep mutual bond. As they explore their connection against the backdrops of the sun-drenched Italian scenery, Elio and Oliver learn more about themselves and each other as their awakening desire builds and takes form.

Development on the film began in 2007, when the rights to Aciman's novel were optioned; between then and the film's release, Ivory stepped down as co-director, and Guadagnino became the director after originally joining the production as a location scout. Guadagnino also curated the film's soundtrack, which features two original songs by Sufjan Stevens ("Mystery of Love" and "Visions of Gideon") as well as a remix of an already-released song of his, "Futile Devices".

Call Me By Your Name contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: The film is set in the summer of 1983. Booty shorts, pastel shirts and 80s music abound, as well as certain forms of technology that were prevalent. Notably, The Psychedelic Furs' classic 1982 single "Love My Way" serves as a kind of "arc theme".
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: The film ends much earlier and slightly differently from the book, with Elio still a teenager, reflecting on their relationship. Aciman himself has stated that he prefers the film's ending.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Let's just say Elio is a more complex character in the book. Though he is still likable, he's petulant, less innocent, his stalking of Oliver is more aggressive, and rather than ending as he does in the film, heroically embracing his pain, he never gets over Oliver and stews about it for years.
  • Adaptational Mundanity: The film is still an art film, but it has a far more realistic feel than the book, which veers into the fantastical at times with far heavier symbolism and long meditations on the nature of time. Vimini, for example, was probably cut from the film because her character fits in with symbolism in the book that isn't really present in the film.
  • Adapted Out: Vimini doesn't appear in the film despite appearing often in Elio's memories of his time in Italy.
  • Age-Gap Romance: Downplayed in that there's only a seven-year difference between them, but visually, Oliver looks much older than Elio, played by the youthful Timothée Chalamet, despite him and Armie Hammer being only a few years older than their characters. This wasn't helped by promotional materials and critics both describing Elio as, alternatively, a child or an adolescent.
  • Almost Holding Hands: When Elio and Oliver walk from the shop to the alley, there is a shot of their fingers slightly entwined without actually grasping hands, in deference to the discretion they had to live under.
  • Ambiguously Bi: There are a few hints that Elio's father might be bisexual, namely his claim towards the end that he "came close" to having what Elio and Oliver had.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Elio is devastated after Oliver has to leave at the end of the summer, but his father encourages him to learn from his grief and recognize its magnitude as a testament to how powerful what he had with Oliver was. Oliver calls back in the winter to let Elio's family know that he's gotten engaged to a woman, and Elio's visibly crushed to hear it. Barring the ambiguity of whether Oliver truly loves his fiancée or is using her to pass as straight, he at the very least calls Elio by his name and admits that he still "[remembers] everything" about the time they spent together. The final note of the film is still a sad one, however, as we watch Elio silently cry in front of a fireplace, essentially mourning his relationship and recognizing that he can never be reunited with his other half.
  • Bittersweet 17: In his seventeenth year, Elio falls in love with a man 7 years his senior. Although he acts fairly mature, he is sometimes treated like a child, like when Mafalda argues with him about going out.
  • Catchphrase: Oliver always steps out of conversations with a casual "Later!" By the end of the film, Elio's parents are aware of it and say it back to him as a joke.
  • Chewing the Scenery: The married, motor-mouthed Italian couple who the Perlmans have over for lunch.
  • Close on Title: The move name appears first at the start of the closing credits.
  • Closet Key: Elio was attracted to men in the past, but doesn't come to terms with his attraction to them until Oliver.
  • Creator Cameo: André Aciman, who wrote the novel this film is based on, appears in a cameo role as one of the two gay gentlemen.
  • Erotic Eating: The infamous peach scene. Elio masturbates with a peach and ejaculates inside it, which Oliver later offers to eat.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The scene with Oliver musing about the origin of the word "apricot" is there to validate him as an academic.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Elio muses on how Oliver isn't the first intern to develop a crush on him, and more than one male stranger has propositioned him.
  • First Love: Oliver is Elio's first love, and it shakes him to the core. Though Oliver has loved others before Elio, the feeling is no less mutual.
  • Foreshadowing: Mr. Perlman shows appreciation for the buff statues that he studies, and is particularly sensitive to Elio calling the visiting gay couple "Sonny and Cher". This seems to foreshadow how, when encouraging Elio's feelings for Oliver, he implies that he was in a similar situation when he was in Elio's age, and thus is also attracted to men.
  • Gayngst: Oliver mentions that his mixed signals are because of an extremely homophobic father.
  • Good Parents: Elio genuinely loves his parents, who are caring and let him grow in his own way. Mr. Perlman even realizes the love between Elio and Oliver and encourages it.
  • Gratuitous French: The cast is primarily French and speaks it amongst themselves in the film. Elio will speak French to Marzia and then go outside and switch to Italian.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Set in Italy, they also speak Italian fluently and sometimes switch languages mid-sentence.
  • Gratuitous German: Elio's mother translates German poetry to him on one occasion, so this film is basically polyglot pornography.
  • I Kiss Your Foot: After Elio gets a bloody nose, Oliver gives him a secret foot massage and kisses his foot.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The final shot of the film, which holds for several minutes and takes up a majority of the credits: Elio silently crying in front of a fire, reminiscing the time he spent with Oliver.
  • Lover and Beloved: Along with the seven-year age difference between them, Oliver's academic status makes his relationship with the teenage Elio a modern example of this.
  • Male Gaze: As the audience is seeing things through Elio's perspective, there are many shots lingering over Oliver's body appreciatively.
  • No Antagonist: There are lots of conflicts and angst, but no real "bad guy."
  • No Bisexuals: Despite both lead male characters Elio and Oliver being romantically involved with separate women along with each other, the media painted the film as a "gay love story".
  • "No Peeking!" Request: When Marzia and Elio go swimming in the river, she tells him to turn his back while she undresses.
  • The Oner: The scene in the town square where Eliot is confessing his love to Oliver is an uninterrupted shot of four-and-a-half minutes.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Mr. Perlman, who encourages Elio's feelings for Oliver, hinting that he, too, is attracted to men.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Elio often tries to make Oliver jealous, particularly by being in a relationship with Marzia, but Oliver reacts coldly to it and considers it childish.
  • Perverted Sniffing: Elio sniffing Oliver's worn shorts, even pulling them over his head.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Indie musician Sufjan Stevens wrote original songs for the movie.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Elio likes to be barefoot, wherever possible.
  • Queer Romance: The two romantic leads are bisexual men and have a brief relationship which is the focus of the film.
  • Rambunctious Italian: The Italian couple the family is having over when Elio gets his nose bleed.
  • Right Through His Pants: When Elio makes love to Marzia on the grass, he still has his pants on.
  • Safety in Indifference: Discussed. Elio's father warns him that if he starts closing off his heart, every failed relationship will make it harder to fully engage in the next one.
  • Scenery Porn: The novel's lush, detailed descriptions of the Italian Riviera come to life with the gorgeous cinematography used in the film.
  • Secret Test: Apparently, each year Elio's father tests the graduate students coming to his house with the same factually wrong claim about the etymology of "apricot". Oliver passes with flying colors.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: When Elio and Oliver sleep together for the first time, the camera pans away to the open window; elsewhere, the film cuts away just as Elio's about to go down on Marzia. This was a deliberate move on Guadagnino's part, as he was uninterested in capturing the film's romance through explicit sexual depictions.
  • Shipper on Deck:
    • Mr. Perlman after the fact. He hints to Elio about knowing about their relationship and tacitly encourages Elio to treasure the time they had together.
    • Also Elio, while in denial of his feelings towards Oliver, tries to pair him with Chiara.
  • Silent Credits: There is no soundtrack after the screen goes black during the end credits.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Downplayed; Elio has some attraction to people who aren't Oliver, but his passion is still solely reserved for him. In the book, he never really moves on from it, even decades later.
  • Speed Sex: Elio comes prematurely when making love to Marzia.
  • The Stoic: Elio tries to feel nothing when Oliver announces his engagement, and attempts to move on too quickly from his first love. Mr. Perlman gives him a speech urging him to avoid this mentality and instead embrace the heartbreak.
  • Thematic Series: This film is considered the third of Guadagnino's "Desire" trilogy, alongside I Am Love and A Bigger Splash.
  • Title Drop: "Call me by your name, and I'll call you by mine."
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Elio sees Oliver off at a train station.
  • Tsundere: When Elio starts to feel attraction for Oliver, he behaves rather antagonistically, making fun of the way he says "Later!" and refusing to play Oliver's song request.
  • Twice Shy: Elio belatedly realizes that Oliver's hostile looks toward him weren't actually hostile at all, and it was merely a shy person's way of holding a gaze. He then comments on how they must be the two shyest people on the planet. It comes back to bite them when they consummate their passions too late to develop a full relationship.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Shy, reserved Elio falls for the outspoken, carefree Oliver.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Eliot is vomiting on-screen during the night-time scene at Bergamo.
  • Wise Beyond His Years: Oliver sees Elio this way. "Is there anything you don't know?"

"I remember everything."