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Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

Romance movies come out every year, and they are often popular for relatable and lovable clichés and happy endings. They are what you wish love truly felt like– a wonderful funny mess of emotions, and a warm happy marriage. But not all love is like that. Some movies are unrealistic in their portrayal of an always fairy-tale perfect ending. In real life, however, love will sometimes end in tragedy. Or it can rip you to pieces at just the first glance. Love has no age, no gender, no sexuality; and sometimes, love just happens.  This idea is ever so wonderfully portrayed in the movie Call Me By Your Name (2017) directed by Luca Guadagnino.

In this film, which is originally based on the novel written by André Aciman and imitated almost exactly from book to screen, a 1980’s Italian family take in a scholar named Oliver, who is to be the assistant researcher to the head of the house. In his arrival, the family’s seventeen year old son, Elio, and Oliver begin a hidden romance.

Elio and Oliver’s interaction and flirtation is the most relatable that I have witnessed and experienced. They both give little, longing looks that go unnoticed by anyone around them. They unknowingly flirt, without meaning to. This is how a majority of relationships in reality begin. They are unaware of their acts until they gradually begin to push for each other’s acceptance and try to impress one another. Who hasn’t done this? We tend to impress people when we like them and hide that we like them. We try hard to not flirt and to no avail, we express the feelings we were trying to hide.

Elio, like most teens, struggle to hide his affection. He looks at Oliver longingly and even goes as far as putting on his swim shorts to take in his smell. As described in both book and movie, Elio wishes to be engulfed in Oliver’s soul, smell, being, and love. Something all humans crave is that want to be a part of someone both physically and mentally. Throughout the story, Elio is exploring his own sexuality as he has feelings for a girl by the name of Marzia. She is also seventeen and has grown up with Elio; the two are close friends, and even lovers at times. The two can be mistaken as a couple, but while they love and have the dreamy sweet relationship everyone wished they had  as teens, Elio cannot get Oliver out of his head.

Oliver too, pretends that he has eyes for another, and they are often seen together. Many assume when Oliver is away from the house at night, he is with his lover; later it is revealed through a sexually tense but gentle moment shared with Elio that he would go sit by the sea to think, mainly about how much he admired Elio. Still, they hide their love for each other but have the ability to explore their other side that is only present in society.

In today’s terms, one might say the two are either bisexual or pansexual. Instead they put aside these terms and definitions and simply explore the true emotion that goes into loving someone. They love people for who they are and what they do. In terms of Elio and Oliver, they perhaps are soulmates that happened to be around each other at the wrong time. They express the truest feelings for each other, and the audience can believe that.

One of the most beautiful symbols in this story is a peach. A peach is sweet and in terms of the movie, it can be sexual and represent both the male, the female, and the soul. Elio admires the peach in the way it reminds him of Oliver’s curves; and how, when a peach is split open, it resembles the delicate sex of Marzia. It is both of them simultaneously and equally sweet. It was grown with love and cared for with love, the same way we love and care for someone. Elio realized this all in a peach and it is the way that I believe we should be thinking as well.

The two take a romantic last trip through Rome before Oliver has to leave back to the US. They spend this time in each other’s arms and visiting beautiful sites, thriving in each other’s company. This is something that happens when two people fall into the most genuine and truest of love; they grow and glow in each other’s presence. The one thing that life will never prepare us for is when someone you love has to leave.  Oliver at last has to go back to the US, and Elio is heartbroken. His family was aware the entire time that he and Oliver has something, and they accepted it. They decided it was best to let the relationship happen, even if they knew their son would be demolished by Oliver’s absence in the end. Even Elio’s father tells him that he had once almost had what Elio had with Oliver, and he envies that Elio had that chance to experience it. These emotions are shared by many outside the world of movies: feelings so intense that you scream in pain when someone leaves, those feelings are real. I can assure you that I’ve felt it, and you may have felt it too, just like these characters.

The most powerful scene in this movie is at the end. Elio receives a phone call from Oliver saying that he is getting married, and still expresses his love for Elio. Elio is broken by this news and sits silently in front of a fire, staring into it, as tears stream down his face. His face contorts through subtle emotions of anger, regret, pain, longing, and finally, acceptance. He looks you right in the eye and the screen blacks out. You feel that scene hit you like it would in reality. Call Me By Your Name is not only a movie to enjoy; it is a life lesson, and a genuine portrayal of the power of love.

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