The music changes to the Psychedelic Furs’ song “Love My Way,” and Hammer’s Oliver really lets himself go to it (this excerpted dance sequence has rightly delighted the internet). But Elio looks at Oliver’s dancing with hooded eyes, like a poker player, which reveals his crafty character. He maybe does fall more in love with Oliver when watching him dance to this song, but he would never reveal that on his face. In a fast cut, Elio is suddenly on the dance floor with Oliver, and he does “sexy” moves with his shoulders that look very contained next to Oliver’s goofy abandon. This is the perfect image of both who they are and who they will be to each other.
After the dance, there is a brief moment where Oliver still walks like the Big Man on Campus, but then he lets go and walks much more loosely and almost girlishly. Oliver is this big butch guy whose masculinity is revealed as very much a performance that he is tired of. He would much rather be in flux, gender-wise, and he starts to be as he and Elio very slowly reveal their feelings for each other. About 45 minutes into the movie, there is a key moment where Oliver does his “macho” voice for Elio, and Elio mocks it to his face. Elio reduces this macho voice to grunting nonsense noises, and this seems to free Oliver from his vocal prison. That’s what someone who loves you can do.
In a superbly staged scene where they finally verbally indicate their romantic emotions for each other, Oliver and Elio circle a World War I memorial and behave as if they are underground Resistance fighters who are planning a siege that might get them killed. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Oliver asks. The emotional danger here is very intense. They are going to need to hide their love, but any wise person knows that to hide your love is really best; if you flaunt your love for another person, the gods might get angry. The stakes could not be higher here, and romantic love thrives on that, which is maybe why so many of our best contemporary film love stories, like Carol (2015) and Moonlight (2016), are between members of the same sex.
Oliver and Elio lay back in the grass together, and Elio says, “I love this, Oliver,” and Oliver says, “What?” and Elio says, “Everything.” And then Oliver takes a pause before saying, “Us, you mean?” The way that Hammer says the line, “Us, you mean?” couldn’t be more furtive or more exciting. Elio kisses Oliver and tries to take the lead physically, but Oliver stops him. There is their age difference to consider (Elio is 17 and Oliver is 24), but Oliver seems mainly just scared to do this openly with a guy. He treats Elio as ethically as possible and makes him wait. After Elio gets a bloody nose, Oliver gives him a secret foot massage, and then he kisses Elio’s foot, and the look on Hammer’s face here can only be described as “ardent.”
This is courtly love between two very smart guys, and when they finally get together at midnight one night to make love, I felt like I shouldn’t be watching what was happening between them; that’s how intimate this scene is. Afterward, Oliver says, “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine,” which is like the moment in Wuthering Heights when Cathy cries, “I am Heathcliff!” They both are fully aware that their romance is finite and doesn’t have long to last.
Elio plays around with a peach and idly ejaculates into it, which is filmed in a very slowed-down, realistic way. Oliver makes another miscalculation when he grabs the peach and tries to eat it. This is the only moment after they sleep together where Oliver makes the mistake of treating Elio like someone who is more experienced. Elio starts to cry with embarrassment, and Oliver has to comfort him. They aren’t one person anymore but two people, and of course sometimes two people aren’t on the same track with each other.