Call Me by Your Name Book vs Movie Review

Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman (2007)

Call Me by Your Name directed by Luca Guadagnino gwad-ah-nino(2017)

This was a subscriber suggestion by both Alexking5742 and LucyLioness100! And there were a few others that have wanted to see this as well, so I hope you all enjoy this video and share you thoguhts on book and movie down in the comments!

This is a coming-of-age story about Elio, a 17 year old who has a summer romance with Oliver, a 24 year old who is staying with Elio’s family for the summer to assist Elio’s professor father.

Book Review

This book has some of the most beautiful writing I had read this year. It is very poetical and so deep and insightful and profound. Plot aside, I would recommend this book just for the magnificent, evocative prose.

But with the plot in mind, I did like the story itself as well. The first half is a lot of Elio just thinking about how much he longs to be with Oliver and while again, the writing is beautiful, it did seem like he kind of went on a bit too long about this crush. There was also a segment with a writer later in the story when he is telling his audience about his trip to Thailand and maybe I am just too dense, but I did not understand why this was included in the book.

All in all, this is an amazing love story and it felt like a very real, mature, human love story. It reminded me of the movie Past Lives in some ways (especially the last bit of the book) with this very intimate and real look into love and relationships. While I enjoy a generic romance from time to time, this is one of those that feels so genuine and one I would recommend to people who say they don’t like reading romance.

Movie review

So much of what makes this movie great comes right from the pages of the book. A lot of dialogue is verbatim from the book and both have such a vibe, such an ambience about them. The world we see in the movie just feels again, so real and genuine and was a world I loved being in for the duration of this movie. The casting is spot on, and it is beautifully shot. If you have not yet watched this one-you need to check it out.

I am going to get right into the plot which means there will be spoilers going forward.

Their relationship

In both, Oliver shows up to live with them for six weeks and he gets to experience Italy while helping Elio’s dad with work. Oliver himself if a professor of some sort (24 seems young to be a professor…). Elio starts to have a crush very soon and obsesses over Oliver before finally telling Oliver how he feels in kind of a roundabout way. They kiss, but Oliver says they can’t go any further. However, amidst Elio getting with a girl he had been friends with, Marzia, he and Oliver then sleep together one night. In the morning, Elio feels disgust with himself but then they sleep together again and after this there is no more of the self-loathing.

This aspect too felt very real. Elio wonders if he feels this way because Oliver is a man but I think this is something many people experience for one reason or another after a sexual encounter. I have felt it before, and I know people I have talked to who felt this too. While it may have been caused by any sort of homophobia he had due to influence of the time or not is hard to say.

But later on, Oliver needs to go to another Italian town near the end of his stay, and Elio goes with him. The two spend a great weekend together, before Oliver gets on his train to go back home.

Elio

I found Elio to be much more likeable in the movie. That’s not to say I didn’t like book Elio but I simply didn’t feel attached to him for the majority of the book. His level of infatuation with Oliver seemed accurate  for his age, but it also caused me to be unable to relate to him oftentimes. In the movie, we see he has a crush on Oliver and there are many scenes that do come straight from the book. But not being in his head the whole time just helped it not be as overbearing as in the book.

Chalamat as Elio was just so likeable though. He comes across as a well-balanced, confident teen who is raised in a cultured environment by loving parents and clearly is living a privileged life. There were so many moments with him that felt so real like when he pretends to drop the book in order to wake up Oliver, the part when the door slams when he and Oliver are together and he silently freaks out, and the part when Oliver asks what he is doing and Elio says he is thinking, when Oliver asks what he is thinking about, Elio says its private. All of these little moments brought this character to life in the movie.

In the movie, Elio is a virgin but losses his virginity with Marzia, before then getting with Oliver. In the book, he and Marzia do hook up, but it seems to have been implied that he was not a virgin. In the movie, things end with him and Marzia being on good terms and staying friends. In the book, this other friend of his kind of tells Marzia off while Elio is gone in Rome. This was messed up in the book and I liked that in the movie she gets treated better.

In some ways, book Elio seemed older than 17. He hadn’t been a virgin, his parents are very liberal and let him do what he wants, he gets a lot of socialization with adults, and since the drinking age is lower in Europe, he is able to be in these adult settings. Teens in the US drink, but they have to sneak it and can’t be hanging out in bars. So just being able to go to these events and be allowed to mingle and drink with adults just gave him a more grown-up feel.

Elio’s age

To go along with younger drinking ages, in Italy, the age of consent is only 14 so that is something to keep in mind here as well. That seems way to young in my mind, but even 18 seems young to me, like an 18-year-old with a 30 year old that seems weird. But then if a 25-year-old is with a 35 year old that seems fine. But Elio being only 17 was something that did feel weird at times in the movie in particular. I think because in the movie Elio came across younger (even though Chalamat was 20) but even in the book he was in the summer before his senior year of high school so he was really young. Oliver being 24 isn’t a huge age gap, but he is clearly much more mature than Elio.  

I went into this story thinking Elio would be taken advantage of by Oliver and that he would be left heartbroken and feeling used. So in some ways I was surprised when the book ends with it being seen as a beautiful thing that happened between them. Ultimately, I do like that the story isn’t one about a high schooler who is taken advantage of by an older person but rather their relationship is seen as something truly special. But I do understand people who feel weird about Elio being a high schooler and Oliver a 24 year old man.

 Being each other

In both, when they sleep together for the first time, Oliver says to Elio, “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine.” Later in the book in particular, they want to become as one as much as possible. They wear each others clothes, they see each other in private moments that are not sexual, and just yearn to be as one. Later in the story, when they are older, we read,

“…it would finally dawn on us both that he was more me than I had ever been myself, because when he became me and I became him in bed so many years ago, he was and would forever remain, long after every forked road in life had done its work, my brother, my friend, my father, my son, my husband, my lover, myself. In the weeks we’d been thrown together that summer, our lives had scarcely touched, but we had crossed to the other bank, where time stops and heaven reaches down to earth and gives us that ration of what is from birth divinely ours. We looked the other way. We spoke about everything but. But we’ve always known, and not saying anything now confirmed it all the more. We had found the stars, you and I. And this is given once only.”

This is also how the book ends, with Elio and Oliver seeing each other again 20 years later and Elio thinking how he wants Oliver to “call me by your name” when Oliver leaves.

Years later

In the movie, we see that at Christmas, Oliver calls and tells them he is engaged. Elio then stars into the fire as he thinks back on their relationship and processes his feelings of Oliver getting married.

 In the book, Oliver had come to see them in person and told them. We then read of their interactions through the years. At the 15-year mark, Elio goes to see Oliver and even though Oliver invites him to have dinner with his family, Elio says he still isn’t ready to be able to see Oliver with his family.

They talk about how the lives they lead feel like a coma or a parallel life to the life they could have shared with each other. Oliver says how one day they will be two old men talking about their past selves as if they were two people they had known and we read, “And on that evening when we grow older still, we’ll speak about these two young men as though they were two strangers we met on the train and whom we admire and want to help along. And we’ll want to call it envy, because to call it regret would break our hearts.”  Wow, that last line is so good!

Elio’s dad

One of the best monologue ever given is said by Elio’s father after Oliver has left. What he says in the movie comes straight from the book and it is so incredible. He is telling Elio to cherish what he and Oliver shared and to not numb the pain because by numbing that, he is numbing himself to so many other emotions. He goes on to say, “In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. 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 thirty 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!”

In the book this section ends with Elio realizing he doesn’t know his father as well as he may have thought and vowing to ask his father about his life. I just love books and movies that explore, or even just touch on these moments in life when kids realize their parents are so much more and complex than the child had realized.

The peach

Both book and movie have the seen with Elio where he finishes in a peach. In the movie, Oliver comes in and acts like he is going to eat what’s in the peach, but Elio is begging him not to. He starts to cry and then says he doesn’t want Oliver leaving.

In the book, Oliver does eat the peach (though Elio does try to stop him as in the movie) and this makes Elio cry because, “No stranger had ever been so kind or gone so far for me…I’d never known so much gratitude and there was no other way to show it.”

I saw this scene as Elio feeling accepted. He had been feeling disgust with himself and Oliver, and then when Oliver finds the peach Elio says how he must think he is sick. But Oliver then saying that Elio isn’t sick or gross, and then taking things further by tasting it, Elio feels accepted I think and this is what makes him cry in the book.

It’s kind of funny in the book though because he makes up a fantasy of a young prince or princess that was turned into a peach tree and now, thousands of years later, is finally able to experience sexual pleasure thanks to Elio.

Other changes

Another change from book to movie is in the book there is a young woman who is very smart and witty, however she has a disease and is dying. She is friends with Elio and quickly becomes friends with Oliver as well. I didn’t get the point of this character. She seemed like a cliché and really serves no purpose.

The book also has this author who is at multiple book signings, including one at the end when Elio and Oliver are in Rome together. He is the one that tells the Thailand story and we get multiple scenes with him but he isn’t in the movie at all.

Book vs Movie

As much as I loved the writing of the book, and even though nearly everything that makes the movie great comes from the book, I have to say the movie wins. They did such an impeccable job bringing this story to life. I love the casting, I love the cinematography, I love how we take our time, I love the ambience that is created. They also cut things from the book that I was fine with being cut. Sure, it would have been cool to see them reconnect later in life, but I think they ended at a good place. And as said, hearing about Elio’s fantasies and his longing for Oliver went on a bit too long in the first half of the book but in the movie no scene felt like it overstayed its welcome.