Brian Cheung


Thoughts, photos and anecdotes from my travels through Norway, Scotland and Finland.

Call Me By Your Name


I was really happy to find out today that Call Me By Your Name had been nominated for a bunch of Oscars. Seeing and hearing all the hype surrounding it for so long I was desperate to see it, though with some trepidation at the same time as my expectations were pretty high given all the rapturous praise. 

Throughout Scotland I spent a chunk of time in each city trying to hunt down the book. Back then it was still a few months before the wide release so the tie-in novel hadn't hit the bookstores just yet. I eventually found a copy in Glasgow and then finished it in Shetland, while also listening to the audiobook as read by Armie Hammer (he of the silky suave voice who also plays Oliver in the film).

It's still not out yet here in Finland but apparently things move quicker in Estonia, so that's what I did on Friday night. Needless to say I was floored, and I can't stop thinking about what I saw. I really appreciate films/music/art that simultaneously make me feel overjoyed and miserable, and CMBYN really nailed that balancing act.

There's not much to the plot - Elio meets Oliver and they spend a lazy summer falling in love 'somewhere in Northern Italy'. On paper it seems so cliched, sappy and dripping in cheese, but everything about this take on that well-worn path felt so authentic and intimate that it hit me like a tonne of bricks. The actors all deserve to be showered with awards, especially Timothée Chalamet who completely sold the part of a teenager hovering on the cusp of adulthood grappling with bubbling romantic impulses. I dare anyone to watch CMBYN and not be reminded forcibly of some intense passionate fling that happened in their own youth. Everything was just so honest and real that I couldn't help but go along for the ride. 

I could even disregard the fact that the central romance was homosexual. Obviously that helped to draw me in, but the film didn't play up that aspect of the relationship. There was no conflict or lesson to be learned in falling in love with another man, it was merely two people that were drawn to each other and Elio's coming of age through that experience.

The ending was devastating, when the relationship inevitably ends as soon as it began and Elio has to process everything that he's experienced. That final scene is an absolute gut punch (again, this kid can ACT). It couldn't have worked with a 'happily ever after' and that's really what brought it home for me. 

Anyway, I'll wrap up my gushing here. I definitely plan to see it again - mostly because I missed most of the Italian/French dialogue as the cinema only gave Estonian and Russian subtitles. I really do hope it wins all the awards; and a shoutout to Sufjan Stevens for penning two magical songs that fit in so perfectly to Elio + Oliver's little love story. It's rare for me to feel so strongly about a film but this ticked all the boxes.

Brian Cheung