Love, From All Sides Now
by Loy Bernal Carlos
He takes on Elio so convincingly and so passionately that you wonder whether a rogue fly buzzing around is actually attempting to console him.
Elio’s dramatic scenes are profoundly riveting: the build up of arousal followed by the break down in the peach scene; the end-of-journey call to and ride home with his mother; the fireplace ending. These are heartbreaking scenes that a lesser actor would be prone to overact. But instead, Chalamet allows the audience to feel the enormity of the overwhelming feelings inside; his need to suppress it, however unsuccessfully, for fear that letting even a little of it out might actually cause his heart to physically break. Every audible inhale is imbibed with such sorrow, it is almost impossible not to be drawn to tears.
And then there are the less dramatic but equally challenging scenes. For instance, when Elio finally stands face to face with the man he longs for. He and Oliver until then have attempted to step forward but somehow always end up moving sideways instead. Now tired of anticipating, Elio summons the courage to take a definitive, bold step. The result is a wordless flag-planting declaration, “I’m here. I’ve arrived. And I’m ready to conquer and be conquered.”
In one intimate scene, Elio collapses limply on Oliver’s chest as if powerless to repel the magnetism, akin to what happens when one goes too near the source of electricity. Both actors make this otherwise awkward movement appear beautiful and graceful…like a Tharpe or Balanchine choreography. Says Hammer: “I think a lot of movie sex scenes are about: ‘What angles look best?’ But in this movie what you see are two people hungrily exploring each other’s bodies. And I think it feels organically like the first time you have a sexual experience with someone new: where there’s uncertainty, there’s that unknown, there’s all those things that you’re figuring out as you go.”
Undoubtedly one of the most meaningful and touching scenes comes near the end of the film in a tender conversation that Mr. Perlman has with Elio, when he offers his son unconditional love and support.
“Most gay people do not have that kind of father,” says producer Howard Rosenman. “The idea of this kind of man, loving and holding his child close to him and telling him to treasure the moment, is extraordinary. It’s almost like a fantasy, but it’s powerful and real because of the way Michael Stuhlbarg delivers it.”
In fact, the character of Mr. Perlman is based on Aciman’s own father. “My father was a very open-minded person who had no inhibitions when it came to sexuality,” says Aciman. He was a man you could always have a conversation with about anything you wanted to discuss about sex.” Says Chalamet: “What was cathartic and enlightening for me in doing the scene with Michael was the sensation that pain isn’t a bad thing. In fact pain needs to be nurtured and taken care of and if you ignore pain or in the words of Mr. Perlman, ‘try to rip it out,’ you’re going to rip out everything good that came with it.”
The film’s music and soundtrack acts as an important voice, if not a character, in the film. Whether it’s André Laplant’s frolicking Une barque sur l’ocean from Miroirs or John Adams’s Hallelujah Junction, Words or any of those featured, its music adds relevant texture, painting with broad strokes undisclosed emotions. Sufjan Stevens’s original works Mystery of Love and the Videos of Gideon, in particular, do more than that. These songs bring a distinct soul to the movie in much the same way Speak Softly Love does with The Godfather, Where do I Begin with Love Story and Max Steiner’s Theme from A Summer Place.
Timothée Chalamet’s authentic portrayal of a boy falling in love for the first time enables the film’s audience to recall their own love stories. Complementing and supplementing are Hammer, Stuhlbarg and Casar who provide us with their own character’s perspectives on love, and each character’s part in Elio’s discovery of it. Guadagnino’s is a movie that needs to be seen not once or twice, but three or four–paying attention to each major character. Because in the end, Call Me By Your Name is not merely a gay or bisexual story. It is not even a different kind of love story. It is, perceived from all sides, the story of anyone who has ever been in love.
photos courtesy of Mongrel Media
Moons and Junes and ferries wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way
But now it’s just another show
You leave ‘em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away
I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all
- Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell