As a reserved boy whose life has been extremely ordinary to date, Elio Perlman does not have a clue what true love means. With the arrival of a charming American houseguest unlike anyone he has ever met before, Elio would learn what it means to want someone beyond friendship. He would learn the meaning of love, longing, desire, and real intimacy. In the beginning, both parties tried their hand at friendship and keeping careful boundaries. Throughout the summer, the two will slowly cross all lines and a simple friendship will blossom into something unexpectedly special. ‘Call Me By Your Name’ may appear to be a story about a short-lived summer romance but is an exploration of connection and sexuality that will shape both parties for the rest of their lives as they grow from boys to men.
In his free time, Elio Perlman reads in his private corner of the world where he’s surrounded by good books. It’s how he became so knowledgeable on varying topics at just 17 years old and it’s the reason why people think he’s very mature. When he’s not reading, Elio’s typically transcribing music and playing the piano. Elio doesn’t have a lot of friends and tends to spend most of his time by himself. Over time he has grown accustomed to his own company.
Despite having parents who are very open-minded and free-spirited, Elio grew-up to be a very good and proper boy. He doesn’t have any vices or worrisome habits. He stays reserved and is at home so often that his parents are the ones pushing him to go out, to enjoy, to party, and to experience more. Deep down inside, Elio wants to experience life on a bigger scale too but he’s just not entirely sure how to break out of his safe, comfortable bubble.
The nonchalant and laidback American, Oliver – who seemed okay with anything and everything, who remained unconcerned whatever it is that happened – would be a summer houseguest. During their first meeting upon Oliver’s arrival, Elio had found his entire nature to be so jarring as compared to their usual guests. He seemed so cold and detached. It wasn’t long before Oliver won Elio over, along with everybody else in the household. He was smart, fun, fit, and confident in who he was as a person and what he wanted.
The Perlmans were Jewish, but they were the kind who tried to stay silent about the fact. They didn’t go around parading their belief or showing signs of it. Oliver was Jewish as well but unlike the Perlmans, he had no problem with letting the whole world know it. He didn’t mind letting people see the Jewish Star of David pendant on his chest. The man was fine with losing things, making mistakes, and being criticized. Oliver intrigued everyone (even the house cook with his vast knowledge of food), but he intrigued Elio most of all.
Oliver was usually rushing from one place to another. He always had someplace he needed to be at, whether it involved his work, workout, or splitting his time in between all his new friends. Oliver was heading into town to pick something up and he invited Elio along. Elio was determined to make the most of this day, where they could finally have some alone time. They biked out, stopping for some cigarettes, and amid conversation, Elio indirectly confessed his feelings for Oliver.
Understanding his meaning, Oliver told Elio nothing could ever happen between them. He went on to explain that it’s wasn't because he didn’t feel the same way but that he simply didn’t want things to get messy. The two of them tried to continue talking about other things but the atmosphere had changed. At one point, Oliver got close to Elio and finally did what Elio has been waiting for this whole time. He kissed him.
Despite sharing kisses, flirtations, and secret moments, Oliver made it clear that they can’t ever go any further. Some days, he would ignore Elio and disappear entirely. After quite some time of continued silence, Elio finally left a letter for Oliver saying they needed to talk. Oliver replied with an invitation to meet at midnight. When midnight came around, Oliver didn’t show up and Elio did what he had been dying and fearing to do: he finally went into Oliver’s bedroom. He didn’t want Oliver to ignore him anymore.
That led to them kissing, touching, embracing, and finally undressing. This was the moment when neither of the two would ever be the same again, as they let each other in, let their guards down, and shared the intimate act of making love. Elio felt the most like himself he had ever felt and he wondered how he could have lived his whole life not knowing this feeling. During that special moment, Oliver asked Elio to call him by his name and he would call Elio by his.
Fifteen years on from that fateful summer, Elio paid Oliver a visit at the college where he taught. Oliver invited Elio back to his house for dinner so he could meet his wife and children but Elio rejected his offer. He simply couldn’t do it. It would hurt seeing what Oliver had and thinking about what they could have had instead. Oliver had been kept as the same person at the same age, like the perfect lover during the perfect summer in Elio’s mind, and he wanted to keep it that way.
Elio was surprised to find that despite not staying in touch, Oliver had kept himself informed of Elio’s progress in life. Seeing him now in his old age, Elio still thought Oliver looked good and was wonderful. They talked about the past, pleased with each other for remembering the details. They discussed everything else that’s going on in their lives. There was still a spark there between them, and they supposed that it would probably always be there. Oliver and Elio shared something special that summer. They would always have that binding them together no matter how much time passed.