What does love feel like?
I love my mom. I love the smell of birthday candles. I’ve never been in love with anyone, but I kissed someone for the first time this year, at a whole 19 years old. Maybe the term is “late bloomer,” but I don’t think it feels like that.
Every crush I’ve ever had, everyone I’ve cried for — it all just feels like blooming.
Coming-of-age is something that has always fascinated me, which may be why I was so affected by Luca Guadagnino’s film “Call Me By Your Name.”
Adapted from André Aciman’s book of the same title, the story of “Call Me By Your Name” is fairly simple. It’s the summer of 1983, we’re “somewhere in northern Italy.” Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet) is 17, he lives with his mother, Annella (Amira Casar), and his father, Professor Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg).
Every summer, the professor requires an assistant for his archeological digs, and this year comes the formidable Oliver (Armie Hammer). He’s tall. He’s American. He and Elio fall in love. Oliver leaves.
That’s all. But watching the boys and their lives intertwine — the whole thing in shades of apricot, drenched in summer languor — it feels like so much more. The story is simple, the emotions are not.
Watching the film felt like everything. I don’t know how else to to describe it. Elio and Oliver have six weeks together, but those six weeks seem to last forever.
Time stretches in the heat while Elio and Oliver exchange quips and cracked eggs at breakfast. Their initial conversations hold the tentativeness of masked attraction, every interaction a question, revolving around the prodigious Elio’s music, or history, or what talking about these things is preventing. Like talking about “things that matter.”
“What things that matter?”
“You know what things.”
Watching Elio so absorbed by affection, have sex for the first time (both with a girl and a boy and having that not matter), brimming with the possibilities and sensuality of firsts — it inspires an ardor and an itch.
Yes, the film is beautiful. Beauty can be gentle. But it’s also carnal.
The film sprawls with naked limbs. It flows with summer warmth, but sometimes, heat is oppressive.
The uncomfortable, itchy thing about love is that it always seems to be pulsing toward some great crescendo. We want a resolution, but when it comes to ever-changing circumstance, does resolution really exist?
Elio is forced to answer this as his and Oliver’s six weeks come to a close. Oliver is headed back to America. Their relationship will not continue, that goes without saying. It was felt outside Oliver’s train, understood through locked eyes and the static of a touch that never comes. Saying it out loud would have been overkill.
Oliver’s departure is simple, the emotions are not. For the length of the film, we watch Elio brim. In his final moment with Oliver, we wait for Elio to spill over. And in some ways, he does. He cries in his mom’s car. A lot.
But months pass, summer heat grows cold. Yet still, something about Elio still seems to brim. The static continues to crackle around him, softly. Persistently.
The final scene is lengthy, a few minutes fixated on Elio’s face, blotchy and red, blue eyes watering in front of a fire. He’s forced to sit with his love, the lack of resolution, and so are we.
I left the theater feeling overwhelmed. I thought about all the people and places I love and how much I want to give them, how much I feel for them. The emotions Guadagnino inspires are seeping, they move through you deep and slow.
I’m in college now, and things feel new all the time. I can see myself growing because of other people, and seeing a similar growth in Elio because of his relationship with Oliver felt important. I’m in the thick of it — love, youth, and possibility.
Sometimes, the center is a scary place to be, and it’s easy to want to run from it. But in one of the final scenes, addressing Elio and the events that had transpired, Professor Perlman (Stuhlbarg, fervent and stunning) urges something different.
“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should, […] but to feel nothing so as not to feel anything — what a waste.”
What does love feel like? It feels like forever, it feels like everything. It feels like mothers and crying. Like a name. Like me, like you.