Much like Guadgnino's previous film A Bigger Splash, the film is reliant on the quiet moments where characters have nothing better to do than sit and embrace each other's company. It's a film that feels trivial on its surface as it debates historical and philosophical debates over a glass of wine, or determining the difference between various covers of classical music. All of these details may seem soporific at first, but they all build to the film's theme. This is a story of love, and everything that is debated reflects a certain obsession among its characters. It describes the motivations to be human and express oneself, and nobody is struggling quite like the young Elio, whose sexual maturity is only starting to take form. He isn't sure of what he wants, but knows what he loves. It becomes frustrating even as it becomes romantic.
It helps that the chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer is instantaneous. There's a certain thrill in seeing Hammer casually give him a back rub, serving as the metaphor for loosening up and being himself. It's charming how well these two yell at each other, trying to seem more intellectual and impressive along the way. It's the type of love that is instantaneous, and exists in a world where it's allowed to be explored. As Hammer dances, it captures the essence of youth and beauty. Everyone is stuck in a rhythmic haze, finding more joy in each other's company than a deep and personal affair. It's welcoming, and paves the way for long scenes where Hammer flirts with Chalamet in his bedroom. These are the film's strongest moments, which capture a breakthrough in intimacy. You understand why these two are in love. Their relationship didn't develop in the conventional manner, but it felt more honest than anyone else's in the film.
Chalamet gives one of the best performances of the year thanks to his earnest enthusiasm for every aspect of the character. The way that he plays the piano is charming down to how he aggressively hits keys. He is a character defined by how love has made him happy as well as frustrated. He doesn't know how to handle his changing emotional state, and the performance's vulnerability is perfectly captured in his private moments as he sits in bed and tries to grasp a relationship doomed to end when the homeward bound train arrives. It's a fear that everyone has faced at some point, and even the way that he stares suggests the struggle to understand it. While Hammer and Stuhlbarg are equally great, Chalamet's performance feels genuine in a way that few films have managed to capture. He is radiant and hopeful. He is the embodiment of young love.
Call Me By Your Name is a film about young love that is full of life's great highs and lows. The film may not seem complicated, choosing to dive into debates about the world around them, but it only works to summarize how love has defined society for centuries. Elio and Oliver are in love, and the audience quickly asks them to stay together forever. It's the clincher for why this film works so well. It captures something that seems impossible. It wants things to be different this time. The end of the story is sad, but it's not as tragic as the old celluloid closet cliche. It's one of reason and maturity, of which the character learns to accept. Time will move on and he will feel that way again, hopefully. The film is a love story where the best moments are found in pointless talking instead of grand spectacle. It's something so real that the movie feels too honest. The only issue is that, as a film, it's tough not to wish that it could've ended differently for our emotional stakes.