Warning: Major SPOILERS for Call Me By Your Name ahead
Almost a full year after it premiered at Sundance and began its journey to widespread critical acclaim across film festivals, overseas releases, and limited releases, summer romance Call Me By Your Name is finally in theaters nationwide. Starring Timothée Chalamet (Miss Stevens) and Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Call Me By Your Name tells the story of Elio (Chalamet), a talented and precocious teenager who falls in love with Oliver (Hammer), a doctoral student who comes to stay at his parents’ summer home in Northern Italy. The film, directed by Luca Guadagnino (A Bigger Splash) is based on the novel of the same name by André Aciman, and is mostly faithful to the book… mostly.
Call Me By Your Name‘s much talked-about final shot shows Elio, having just learned via a heart-wrenching telephone call that Oliver will be getting married in a few months, sitting in front of a crackling fire, wrestling with his emotions. The entire narrative of the movie covers a space of about half a year – the majority of the running time dedicated to the summer that Elio and Oliver spend together, with the final ten minutes or so picking up in the winter following his visit. And while there’s a certain tragedy to the way the film ends, it’s at least far more open-ended than the book.
The novel version of Call Me By Your Name actually ends twenty years after Elio and Oliver’s first meeting, and reveals that after Oliver leaves at the end of the summer, the two never again rekindle their romance. Oliver gets married and has two sons, and Elio has very little contact with him in the interim years. The next time he sees him, after their initial summer together, is when Oliver returns for a visit during in the winter of the same year (around the same time as his phone call in the film). During this visit he is distant and evasive, eventually revealing to Elio that he plans to get married. He gets into Elio’s bed for a short while (fully-clothed) and kisses him briefly on the mouth, but things go no further, and the morning after things are “officially chilly.”
What follows are the “blank years” – a long stretch in which Elio and Oliver do not see one another at all. Around nine or ten years after their initial meeting, Oliver stays with Elio’s parents and they speak on the phone. Elio attempts to rekindle their old joke – calling Oliver by his own name – but Oliver does not respond in kind. “He had forgotten,” Elio decides. About four years later (fifteen years after their first meeting) Elio and Oliver finally meet again when Elio visits Oliver’s college town and attends one of his lectures. Oliver does not recognize him at first, but says this is only because of the beard that Elio has since grown. They share a drink and reminisce about old times.
Twenty years after their brief love affair, Oliver returns to visit the old house in Italy. Elio’s father has since passed away, and he shows Oliver where some of the ashes were scattered. They make plans to go to San Giacomo, and Elio asks Oliver if he remembers the way. Oliver replies that he does.
“I’m like you,” he said. “I remember everything.”
I stopped for a second. If you remember everything, I wanted to say, and if you are really like me, then before you leave tomorrow, or when you’re just ready to shut the door of the taxi and have already said goodbye to everyone else and there’s not a thing left to say in this life, then, just this once, turn to me, even in jest, or as an afterthought, which would have meant everything to me when we were together, and, as you did back then, look me in the face, hold my gaze, and call me by your name.
And that’s where the book ends! There are currently vague plans for a sequel (or sequels) to Call Me By Your Name, which may or may not follow the same plot as the latter pages of the novel. Some fans of the movie have voiced their hope that a follow-up movie could “fix” things by having Oliver call off his wedding and reconcile with Elio, while others feel that the book’s ending fits the story well.
Which ending do you prefer? Let us know in the comments!
Call Me By Your Name is in theaters nationwide now.
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