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A Sun-Kissed Retrospective: Nostalgia through Andre Anciman’s Call Me By Your Name

By Anjida Sripongworakul

Friday 23 June 2017 Student journalists

Reading Andre Anciman’s words was reliving nostalgia, remembering the rush, the confusion, and the frustrations of that vivid first love.


Anciman’s debut novel, Call Me By Your Name, was released in 2007 to critical acclaim and is deemed a modern classic.

The novel recounts a summer relationship between a 20-something American grad student and a precocious 17-year-old son of a professor, against the backdrop of the 1980s Italian Riviera. The arrival of his father’s charismatic research assistant, Oliver, triggers an unknown feeling in Elio, who spends his days reading classics, transcribing Latin works, and playing Liszt on the piano all too beautifully.

It’s a coming-of-age story about realising and recognising the most basic and universal human longings—desire, about indelible, minute moments told in retrospective by one who is transformed during summer’s humid, heady days, one whose conflicting internal impulses are reciprocated and cut abrupt by time. Elio’s voice echoes first love sentiments, and Anciman’s simple words were nuanced Proustian meditations capturing indescribable, transient emotions in a way few writers can. It is a novel where much happens when nothing happens, a fleeting dalliance dripping with bittersweet melancholy.

Ten years later, Call Me By Your Name is adapted into a film, directed by the Italian mastermind behind major dramatic masterpieces like last summer’s A Bigger Splash and 2009’s I Am Love, Luca Guadagnino, based on a script co-written with Walter Fasano and Howards’ End’s James Ivory. Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and the Berlinale a month later, the film was the audience’s favourite and the critics’ pick, a definite triumph for an indie film slotting its introduction into the cinematic world at the right time and place. The sun-kissed summer was a stark contrast to the winter festivals’ snowy winds.

Even more lauded and memorable were the performances, tipped for the upcoming fall awards season. Critics praise 21-year-old Timothée Chalamet (Homeland) for his layered, breakout portrayal of Elio, an adolescent on the brink of adulthood. His last scene with his father (Michael Stuhlbarg, Blue Jasmine) is a father-son conversation on life and its inevitable accomplice, pain, quotable for years to come. Watching Chalamet’s performance as an introverted, troubled high-schooler in his previous flick, Miss Stevens, highlighted his magnetic presence on screen, his sense of black comedic timing, and his gift of allowing the audience to sense his inner struggles through subtle, natural acting, a quality ideal for the part of Elio.

Acting opposite Chalamet is The Social Network’s towering Armie Hammer, a perfect picture of all-American virility, one whose chemistry with Chalamet was deemed electric. Adding to the leads were gorgeous, sun-soaked cinematography by Thai Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, and Giulia Piersanti’s apt costume design, evocative of the 1980s summer’s freedom. Independent singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens also provided new music for the film.  

While Call Me By Your Name is not due in theatres until late autum this year, there is always time to travel with Elio back to his “sensual Italian summer,” as termed by Hammer, and experience for yourself once again that wonderful, overwhelming intoxications of first love.


Anjida Sri

I'm a Management Science (Decision Science Stream) Master's candidate at London School of Economics and Political Science. Originally from Thailand, I'm as passionate about the science, psychology, and statistics behind decision making as I am about film and writing. I enjoy opportunities to combine my passions in reviewing, discussing, and analysing films. My major influences include the New Yorker's James Wood, classic Russian literature, and Richard Siken's poetry. I've written film reviews, celebrity profiles, and news and technology coverage for my undergraduate engineering newspaper, the University of Waterloo's Iron Warrior. I'm also a guest blogger and Student Blog Editor for LSE's Department of Management. I believe pop culture, current affairs, and critical, world-changing ideas are integral to student lifestyle, and I'm committed to representing students' reality outside the classroom to society and the world. I hope to continue investigating this theme through NUS' platform for student voices.