As Timothée Chalamet turns 27, revisiting Call Me By Your Name, which effectively marked the actor’s arrival into Hollywood.
With a lean frame, a floppy head of hair and enchanting eyes, Timothée Chalamet has definitively claimed the position of 2021’s internet darling. But his appeal isn’t just limited to his boyish charm and his picture-perfect visage. This year, the actor has featured in two of the most prestigious Hollywood films, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, and is currently filming the prequel to Willy Wonka. In an ever-changing interwebz landscape — Noah Centineo was the internet boyfriend last season — Chalamet has proven he can equally deliver in a tentpole as well as blend in with a terrific ensemble cast for an indie film.
Like Paul Atreides in Dune, a precocious young man comes of age in Call Me By Your Name, a role that made him the third-youngest person to nab an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. A student of LaGuardia, a well-known New York school of performance arts, Chalamet imbues his character in the film, Elio Perlman, with a nimble physicality. Elio glides through spaces, a book or a musical instrument carelessly dangling from his hand. There is a tactility that pervades the film, as arms glide over bare skin, luxurious peaches weigh tree branches down, water trickles from artificial fountains in measured drops, and the sun swathes the landscape in a sensual warmth. It’s a lush, tempting tableau inspired by a Graeco-Roman aesthetic.
Director Luca Guadagnino creates a heady concoction of emotion and passion in the film, adapted from André Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name. This story of a torrid first love is set in an idyllic town in Italy when a teenager, wise beyond his years, yet with a touch of insecurity of youth, joins his parents for a summer getaway at an Italian villa. Elio is well-versed with multiple languages, plays a variety of musical instruments including the piano, and revels in his quietude. The trio is joined by a charming graduate student, Oliver (Armie Hammer), who arrives to aid Elio’s father Mr Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg) in his research. While he is knowledgeable enough to not be intimidated by any of Perlman's students, as a shy and introverted boy, Elio is fascinated with Oliver’s confidence and worldliness. Whether feigning indifference in person and admiring him silently from afar, Elio is consumed by his fondness for Oliver.
Chalamet and Hammer’s incredible chemistry, brimming with sensuality and affection, cements Oliver and Elio’s utopic love story. The narrative unfolds at a comfortable pace, but there is always a lingering sense of longing and melancholy, because both the viewers and the characters know that the summer love will end with the vacation. Guadagnino uses music and noises to create a holistic sensory experience. The score of the film includes Sufjan Steven’s lilting compositions Mystery of Love and Visions of Gideon, along with John Adam’s Hallelujah Junction — which perfectly complement the visual metaphors of the film. This is the proverbial Garden of Eden, the Paradise that will eventually be lost. Till it’s lost, it is a fecund ground for unbridled desire.
Despite the allusions to the Garden of Eden, Elio and Oliver’s love is not depicted as sinful. Rather, Call Me By Your Name is about submitting to one’s truest instincts and savour the joy that life has to offer. Despite the erotic overtones, the film delves deep into the mingling of two souls. It is not just a queer love story; what the director masterfully achieves is to capture the tragic fate of first love and the delicateness of affection.
In this film, loss is not shunned; it is embraced as a part of experiencing love. The film urges you to feel everything — beauty and terror. Which is why in the final scenes of the movie, Perlman comforts his son saying, “In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should, that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”
Watch Call Me By Your Name here