[Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for André Aciman’s “Find Me.”]
There are few things Hollywood loves more than a beloved film property that can spawn its own movie universe, or at least a profitable sequel or two. But in a glutted market filled with sprawling franchises that have grown ever more predictable, some sequels provide a welcome alternative. Such is the case with Luca Gudagnino’s lush adaptation of André Aciman’s 2007 novel “Call Me by Your Name,” which traces the stirring summer romance between teenager Elio and graduate student Oliver, and has now received a sequel in book form.
Aciman’s latest, the much-anticipated “Find Me,” follows the characters into the next stage of their lives and is out today. What does it portend for a potential new movie?
When “Call Me by Your Name” premiered at Sundance 2017, with Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as the lovers at its center, it became an instant critical favorite, later grossing over $40 million at the box office and gathering legions of fans. The movie earned four Oscar nominations in 2018, including a win for screenwriter James Ivory. Chalamet became a megastar; the movie became a meme.
By the end of 2018, Aciman announced he was penning a sequel to the novel, stoking immediate anticipation of another adaptation. “Find Me” weaves between time and place to offer a fuller look at the characters that populate the world of “Call Me by Your Name,” including Elio, Oliver, Elio’s beloved father Samuel, and more characters, both new and old. It also offers a definitive answer to the question on every fan’s mind: Do Elio and Oliver ever end up together?
But what works in novel format might not exactly fly on the big screen, at least not anytime in the near future. That’s because “Find Me” makes some significant time jumps, including one that would require the fresh-faced Chalamet to approach middle age. It’s the same problem that may have kept Guadagnino from ending his original film with a pair of epilogues from Aciman’s original novel that, just like “Find Me,” pushed far into the future.
Nevertheless, after the critical and awards season success of the film, Hammer told IndieWire that he, Guadagnino, and Chalamet were all on board with revisiting the film for a sequel. “The experience of making the first one was so pure and beautiful that it wouldn’t matter how big my role was,” Hammer said. “Luca’s all gung-ho about it, and by the way, if Luca’s doing it, I think we’re all gung-ho about it.”
But when IndieWire spoke to Ivory in November of 2017, the iconic filmmaker approached the idea with caution. “If André Aicman wants to write something, that’s fine, good,” he said. “But I don’t know how they’re going to get a 40-year-old Timmy!” Aciman’s novel bears out that concern.
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While Guadagnino’s film concludes in stirring fashion a few months after the events of the seminal summer, as a tear-streaked Elio gazes into his family’s fireplace, Aciman’s original novel offers an epilogue that takes both Elio and Oliver into the future — from 15 years down the line to 20. The first section of the “Call Me” epilogue sees Elio visiting Oliver in the States, and while nothing physical happens between the two — Oliver, now a professor, is married and has two sons — the emotional exchange between the pair is electric.
The second portion of the epilogue takes place five years later, and finds the roles reversed: Oliver has come to visit Elio in Italy, returning to the family home where they first fell in love two decades earlier (enter the aforementioned “40-year-old Timmy”). Elio’s father has died, and while Oliver’s presence is a soothing one, Aciman’s novel doesn’t conclude with a clear and permanent reunion between the two.
“Find Me” also revisits aspects of and dips into the “Call Me by Your Name” timeframe in its final three sections, including a key chapter in which Oliver gets to tell his story through his perspective, something he was never afforded in Aciman’s first book. And yes, Aciman also arrives at a new conclusion to the story’s exquisite love story.
Aciman’s new book is divided into four sections — “Tempo,” “Cadenza,” “Capriccio,” and “Da Capo,” all music terms in Italian — and takes place 10 years after the first book, then 15 (just like the first epilogue in “Call Me by Your Name”), followed by a pair of segments that appear to take place 20 years on from the original events, bookending the final section in “Call Me by Your Name.”
Reading the story of Elio and Oliver in a linear fashion will require a lot of repeated switching between the novels. The timeline goes like this: the main section of “Call Me by Your Name,” followed by “Tempo” in “Find Me,” then back to the first epilogue in “Call Me by Your Name,” back to “Cadenza” and “Capriccio” in “Find Me,” then the last epilogue section in “Call Me by Your Name,” ending with “Da Capo” from “Find Me.” It goes down a little smoother in practice.
The first section (and the beefiest of the foursome), focuses on Elio’s father Samuel (played by Michael Stuhlbarg in the film) and takes place a decade after the events of the first book, sketching out a new love story for the sensitive patriarch. Samuel and Elio’s mother have long since divorced (she’s remarried a friend, they all seem to be on amicable terms), but Samuel is still marked by a profound longing for true human connection. While taking a train to Rome to visit Elio, who lives and works there now as a music professor, he meets a thrilling younger woman named Miranda.
Over the course of over 100 pages, Samuel and Miranda bond, share a meal with her father, spend time with Elio, and fall in love. By its end, the duo decide to decamp for Samuel’s house (the same house where Elio and Oliver fell in love) and spend the rest of their lives together. For some time, that’s exactly what happens, and subsequent sections reveal that the pair eventually marry, have a son of their own, and are blissfully happy until Samuel passes away a decade after their first meeting.
In the middle of all of that, “Cadenza” kicks up, focusing on Elio five years after the opening section. While we’ve already spent some time with Elio in Samuel’s section, “Cadenza” focuses entirely on him, as he remains in Rome teaching music. It’s unclear if this section takes place before or after the second epilogue in “Call Me by Your Name” — which also takes place 15 years after the events of Elio and Oliver’s first summer — but Elio’s melancholy state hints that he’s likely returned from his first visit with Oliver, more heartbroken than ever before.
So it’s somewhat soothing that while “Cadenza” doesn’t reunite Elio and Oliver, it does offer Elio a new romance with an older gentleman he meets at a music recital. Michel is no Oliver (who could be?), but he’s kind to Elio and as the two navigate a new (and ultimately short-lived) romance, it appears to further crystallize what Elio wants and desires out of a partner. The answer is, of course, Oliver.
The most ambitious part of Aciman’s novel is that it allows Oliver the chance to finally share his perspective. Apparently set just before Oliver’s second visit to Italy (at one point, he notes in an internal monologue that it’s been 20 years since he began to live “a dead man’s life”), “Capriccio” finds Oliver and his wife Micol preparing to leave New York City after a year spent visiting another university. The duo are throwing a party in their now-nearly-empty apartment, and as the festivities unfold, Oliver first fixates on a pair of invited guests (colleague Paul and yoga pal Erica), imagining the trio engaging in their own affair.
It doesn’t happen, but Oliver’s sexual obsession with the pair eventually push him to consider who he’s really longing for (Elio, of course). By the end of the party, Oliver has resolved himself to return to Elio and Italy, and to live the life he’s denied himself for decades (a life that he believes everyone around him, including his wife and sons, realizes he is totally empty without). “Capriccio” concludes with a fantasy that turns into a promise, as Oliver imagines what will happen when he returns to the Perlman family home.
Aciman writes, with Oliver only thinking of Elio, “If he asks how long I’m staying, I’ll tell him the truth. If he asks where I plan to sleep, I’ll tell him the truth. If he asks. But he won’t ask. He won’t have to. He knows.”
The slimmest section in the book is the one that finally brings Elio and Oliver back together, seemingly for good. It appears to pick up just after the last section of “Call Me by Your Name,” as Elio and Oliver have decamped from the Perlman home for a three-week tour of the Mediterranean.
Their initial reunion has been a strange one, and Aciman writes from Elio’s perspective, “We knew things were going to be different but we couldn’t quite grasp how the wish to run headlong into what we’d once had years before could stir our reluctance to be in bed together.” In short, they get over it.
The reunion also requires plenty of emotional heavy-lifting, and despite Elio and Oliver’s joy of finally being back together, Elio remains worried that Oliver will leave him again. Oliver, however, vows that that this is now, finally, their time. Much like “Call Me by Your Name,” it ends with a callback to the book’s title. Elio muses of Oliver:
He knew that if neither of us sought out the other it was only because we had never really parted and that, regardless of where we were, who we were with, and whatever stood in our way, all he needed when the time was right was simply to come and find me.
And so he has. Will a film followup do the same thing? Of course, the movie version of the sequel could diverge from the book in any number of ways, so take this assessment with a grain of salt. But Aciman’s decision to rush a book sequel after the movie’s success suggests he was all too eager to provide the filmmaker with a template, and Guadagnino’s faithfulness to the original novel suggests that he wants to take his cues on these characters from the man who created them. It’s safe to assume their legions of fans feel the same way.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux release “Find Me” on Tuesday, October 29.