Call Me By Your Name's Heartbreaking Ending Explained

Timothee Chalamet looking at Michael Suhlbarg in Call Me By Your Name
(Image credit: Sony)

To put it bluntly, Call Me By Your Name has one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful endings I’ve ever seen. After showing this gorgeous whirlwind of a summer fling, Luca Gadagnino uses his directorial mastery to rip the rug out from under us, and Timothée Chalamet gives an absolutely devastating performance as Eilo, culminating in the moving, sad and somewhat hopeful ending of Call Me By Your Name

Since this movie's release, its star Timothée Chalamet has made amazing projects, including another film with Luca Guadagnino, and being the lead of the Dune: Part 2 cast. However, I think Call Me By Your Name will always remain some of his best work. A big reason for this is the wonderfully emotional performance he gives as Elio, especially at the end. It's his performance, mixed with a thought-provoking monologue from Michael Stuhlbarg, that really helps wrap up this perfectly packaged coming-of-age story.

Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet looking at each other by the train station in Call Me By Your Name

(Image credit: Sony)

What Happens At The End? 

The final act of the film begins with Elio and Oliver (Armie Hammer) going on a little trip together. It’s a romantic getaway, however, they’re both keenly aware that this could be the end of their relationship. Elio is a changed person at the end of this whirlwind romance, and because of how life-changing this season was for him, he’s clearly devastated about Oliver leaving him. 

The film comes to a close months after their separation and Elio's conversation with his dad about the relationship. When winter arrives, Elio receives a surprise call from Oliver. In the final moments, we see them "call me by your name" one last time, and it ends with our protagonist crying. All these moments truly culminate into a gorgeous ending, that will leave you heartbroken. I think Manohla Dargis’ NYT review encapsulates the overall feeling of the ending perfectly:

In one alive, vulnerable and life-altering summer, Elio’s desire finds its purpose. He loves, and in loving, he becomes.

“He loves, and in loving, he becomes.” What a perfect way to encapsulate what happens at the end of Guadagnino’s film. However, there are three major moments that get us to this point, so let’s break them down. 

Michael Stuhlbarg during his big speech at the end of Call Me By Your Name

(Image credit: Sony)

What Is The Greater Meaning Of Elio's Dad's Monologue?  

Arguably, one of the best scenes in this whole film is the conversation between Elio and his father, Mr. Perlman. While never obvious, this speech clearly shows how much empathy Stuhlbarg’s character has for his son.

He mentions envying Elio’s relationship, but also notes how much he loves that his son found love in the carefully worded monologue. Overall, this moment between father and son is hopeful, while he’s not outwardly acknowledging what happened, he’s noting that Elio should not be ashamed or bury his feelings, he should feel them. The final lines of Elio’s dad’s monologue are:

I may have come close. But I’ve never had what you two had. Something always held me back or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business; just remember, our hearts and our bodies are given to us only once, and before you know it, your heart's worn out. And as for your body, there comes a point when no one looks at it, much less wants to come near it. Right now there's sorrow, pain; don't kill it and with it the joy you felt.

I’ve teetered back and forth with the meaning of this monologue. Is Elio’s father a closeted gay man who wanted to have what Elio and Oliver had? Is he simply acknowledging that he knew what was going on with Elio? It’s unclear, but one thing is for sure, Chalamet’s character is fully supported by his father. 

This revelation shows Elio, and the audience, that he’s not alone in this sad moment. It also means this speech and advice is coming from a man who knows exactly what he’s going through, and it’s reaffirming to know that things will get better, so long as you find joy in everything. In my interpretation of the film, I see this moment as the reason Elio feels allowed to feel his feelings in the final moments of the film after the phone call he receives from Oliver.

Timothee Chalamet on the phone at the end of Call Me By Your Name

(Image credit: Sony)

Why Was That Phone Call So Devastating? 

Following the monologue from Mr. Perlman, the film flashes forward from the end of summer to sometime in the winter. We see Eilo walk into his house, seemingly happy and listening to music. The phone rings, and he picks it up. It’s Oliver. Of course, it’s Oliver. 

You can feel the simultaneous excitement and dread in Chalamet’s performance as he speaks to his first love. They talk for a bit, before Elio’s parents hop on the line to excitedly say hello. We find out Oliver is engaged, to a woman, and in response Elio calls Oliver by his name, evoking the title of the movie, and sending both of them back to their first romantic moments together. 

Oliver then ends the call by saying “I remember everything.” Showing that this summer didn’t mean nothing to him, making this moment all the more heartbreaking. Following the phone call, Elio walks into the living room, and cries. 

Timothee Chalamet crying at the end of Call Me By Your Name

(Image credit: Sony)

Why Elio Crying Through The Credits Is So Impactful

To make the ending of this film even more raw, the final minutes of Call Me By Your Name are simply Elio crying. After he hangs up the phone, he walks over to the fireplace, curls up, and starts crying. It’s a culmination of these final two moments: the monologue and the phone call. Chalamet’s character is letting himself feel all these feelings, and bask in the joy and the sadness that was this life-changing summer. 

On top of the moments that culminated in this one, the performance Chalamet gives at the end is also stunning. It proves why he got an Oscar nomination for this performance, and why he hasn’t stopped working since – I mean in 2023 alone he has two major movies coming out with the Wonka origin story and Dune: Part 2. He doesn’t say anything, he just cries, but you can see the range of emotions he’s feeling so clearly, and it’s beautiful. When it came to filming the scene the actor explained how they went about creating this profoundly moving moment, explaining in the DVD commentary, via Out

It was bit of an acting experiment. I was grateful I had enough personal experiences to draw from. I don't wanna do that all the time... With the camera this close and the take being as long as it is -- it felt like anything else would ring false. The camera was just in the fireplace. There wasn't anybody behind it.

As he noted, this is not a bunch of cuts stitched together, it’s one take. You see him feel his emotions, process his life, and bask in this love in the final minutes of the film. Creating a perfect, and heartbreaking ending. 

There are many reasons why Call Me By Your name received great reviews when it came out, and why it’s so beloved all these years later. However, the way it ends is why it sticks with you, or at least why it stuck with me, and it gives this story about summer love a breathtaking, tragic and beautiful ending. 

You can stream Call Me By Your Name with a Netflix subscription.

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is a Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She spent many years working in local journalism across the country writing about art, news and sports. One of her favorite films is When Harry Met Sally and she walks around constantly quoting Ted Lasso.