In which I talk about the ending of a movie very few people have even seen yet. Spoilers, obviously.
Call Me By Your Name is devastating. At least that was my takeaway; when the credits rolled there was an actually physical weight in my stomach. It’s been a long time since a film did that to me. Thank god for the Q&A session after the screening because if I had not had time to process the ending of this film I probably would have cried during my hostel check in.
Now, I am approaching this from a book perspective. I was fairly certain going in that they weren’t going to continue up to the present day segments on account of the fact that Timothee Chalamet really does look 17: this means that they were going to have to either swap him out for another actor for the film’s final scene, or employ some highly unrealistic prosthetics. However, I did not expect the movie to stop where it did.
For those of you who have read the book, the film gets up to the point where Oliver calls to tell them he’s getting married and then the film just… ends. In the book we have the distance of time, it’s a summary of what happened after that summer, it’s not even his last significant experience with Oliver. I for one thought the film would at least reach the point of their last significant in-person interaction. In the books adult Elio recounts this phone call almost offhandedly, for him it seems that time has healed that particular wound. Both the book and the film nearly made me cry, but their relationship with time is entirely different. In the book,that sadness derives from seeing the slow march of time, and it leads them to drift further away from the relationship they had and the people that they were. The film’s heartbreak doesn’t stem from the way time slowly changes us, but the pain of the here and now. It leaves you right the middle of Elio’s devastation. The final shot of the film is held all throughout the credits. Where you’d normally be collecting your things and walking out the door as the names roll by, here you’re watching Elio in a fixed close up, no transitions, no cut aways, just his face as he tries to fight back tears and deal with the devastating blow to his heart. It was this several minutes long shot that has launched my conviction that Timothee Chalamet deserves at the very least an Oscar (THE OSCAR CAMPAIGN STARTS HERE PEOPLE). It also completely and utterly destroyed the conviction I had had going in that no matter where the film chose to end it was going to be fine, because I knew he’d get over it eventually.
The film effectively forces you into the here and now: Elio can’t do anything but go through the moment and neither can we as the audience. The film ends on an open wound, and that? That hurts.