Call Me By Your Name was one of two 2018 Best Picture nominees that I didn’t see until after the Academy Awards (the other was The Post) but damn did it rip me apart. I was perfectly happy to see Shape of Water win over Three Billboards but CMBYN was so beautiful and Timothée Chalamet was robbed so in my heart of hearts I will always been disappointed it only received one Oscar. That Oscar went deservedly to James Ivory who adapted André Aciman’s novel of the same name.
I had every intention of reading Call Me By Your Name before watching the film adaptation but it had a surprisingly long wait list for my Red State library and it took me until now to get my hands on a copy. I’d like to say it was worth the wait, because it’s exquisitely written, but I spoiled myself with the film which was painfully beautiful.
“Do I like you?’ I wanted to sound incredulous, as though to question how he could ever have doubted such a thing. But then I thought better of it and was on the point of softening the tone of my answer with a meaningfully evasive Perhaps that was supposed to mean Absolutely, when I let my tongue loose: ‘Do I like you, Oliver? I worship you.”
This isn’t to say I disliked CMBYN because I didn’t. I liked it, I just didn’t have the same visceral reaction.
Elio lives in an idyllic Italian villa and his first person narration gives us an intimate look at his seventeen year old thoughts & feelings. His father, a professor, takes in a grad student each summer and this year it is a young man named Oliver. Elio has an immediate crush on his new housemate but struggles to show his affections. This is the ’80s and it is a hard time to be gay but also, Elio is young and still coming to grips with his sexuality. His spurns some of Oliver’s advances and begins a physical relationship with a local girl. Eventually Elio and Oliver admit their feelings to one another and their relationship turns physical.
“You’ll kill me if you stop.”
Elio’s narration gives an intimate look at young love; a time when infatuation borders on obsession. First there is the tension between the two and then there is the second guessing which is followed by the all consuming physical & emotional needs of a new relationship. Since everything is internal, and Elio is very young, it is very intimate. Overall, the love story between Elio and Oliver isn’t anything particularly spectacular but the writing is superb.
Despite my praise I am giving CMBYN 4 stars. You see, while I’m no shrinking violet, I was reading these graphic, homosexual scenes while also listening to The Immortalists on Overdrive which was a bit overwhelming. I ended up finishing the Simon section of The Immortalists before picking up the second half of CMBYN which may have interrupted my enjoyment. I struggle with disjointed reads and it always affects my overall opinion of a book. No matter how beautiful they are written.
“I suddenly realized that we were on borrowed time, that time is always borrowed, and that the lending agency exacts its premium precisely when we are least prepared to pay and need to borrow more…”