Let’s talk about Call Me By Your Name.
Because, wow, there is a LOT to talk about.
First, let me start with a little background information since, before it was nominated for four Oscars (and even now), most people have never even heard of it. “Call Me By Your Name” (which will henceforth be referred to as CMBYN) was originally a novel written by André Aciman. This past year, director Luca Guadagnino adapted the novel into a screenplay starring the ever-gorgeous Armie Hammer, and ridiculously talented up-and-comer, Timotheé Chalamet.
The story is set during the summer of 1983 in a small town in Italy where 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) and his family host an American Academic every year. They get to stay with the family for free while working on research and manuscripts, as long as they agree to help Elio’s father with his academic work as well – which is a pretty sweet deal. This year’s lucky participant is 24-year-old Oliver (Hammer). Very quickly, Elio becomes fascinated, even obsessed, with Oliver (I mean, who wouldn’t? He wears short-shorts the whole movie). Over the weeks the two play a little game, a song and dance of who wants who more? Who will break first? until their complete infatuation with each other comes to a head and the two becomes lovers.
And when I say lovers, I mean lovers. And oh is it a beautiful love indeed. But, before I wax poetic, I want to address the thing that most people HAVE heard about this story – the controversy.
Especially following all of the sexual assault allegation and problems going on in Hollywood, the idea of Armie Hammer, who is 32, and Timotheé Chalamet, who is 22, being “tongue wrestling partners”, as Chalamet jokingly called them, made people uncomfortable. However, the two actors were very open about the artistic, NOT perverted, nature of the work. There was consent, there was openness and boundaries and respect among the cast and crew, and the result of their work and dedication is a thing of beauty.
In terms of the fictional romance between a 17-year-old and a 24-year-old, the idea that their relationship romanticized pedophilia in any way is ridiculous. Seventeen is actually above the age of consent in Italy, and when you consider that their age difference is only seven years, it isn’t actually that wrong. And, after reading the book and seeing the movie, it would be impossible to see their relationship as anything but “right”.
Now, enough of the preaching and the politics – let me tell you what I thought.
I am a film student, and even before it became the focus of my studies, I’ve always loved film. I’ve seen a lot of movies. A LOT. And this? This was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my life. It was beautiful, and powerful, and emotional, and yeah, I cried. Multiple times. The love portrayed in this movie and talked about in the book is so strong, so pure and natural it kinda made me question my entire existence.
Elio and Oliver aren’t just in love with each other as two different people who have feelings for each other – Elio and Oliver see the other person as an extension of themselves. They are one person, sharing everything, even their names (hence the title). The act of calling the other by their own name isn’t just some John Green “Okay? Okay.” gimmick, it’s how the two characters show the depth and intensity of their bond, the way they understand each other without even having to speak. That (along with some other less-than PG-13 reasons) is what makes the infamous “Peach Scene” so powerful. (I won’t describe it here, you’ll just have to look it up yourself if you haven’t seen it.) Elio begins to cry because he has literally never felt so close to another person in his LIFE. Can you even imagine the strength and power behind that emotion?
As with all indie movies, there’s a big picture here – a point to be made about humanity and the shared human experience. The age old question of: is it really better to have loved and to lost, than to have never loved at all? Spoiler alert: when the summer ends, Oliver leaves, just as he was always meant to. There’s no happy ending tied up with a bow, it’s pain and grief and suffering. But, to have had the most amazing love that either of them will probably ever have in their lives, is it worth the sorrow?
For all of the sadness of the ending, I think the answer to this question is: yes. The reason so many people are scared of feelings and commitment is because it makes them vulnerable, falling in love inevitably comes with the possibility of heartbreak. But isn’t that what makes it so beautiful? The fact that you’re willing to risk that pain for happiness, even if it’s as brief as Elio and Oliver’s. Plus, as Elio’s father points out, some people NEVER get to experience the kind of love that the two men shared in their entire lives. It was rare and powerful, and made all the more beautiful because it had to end. So, yeah. Don’t miss out on love. Love, and if you must, lose. But always love first.
Read this book!! See this movie!! Watch the Oscars on March 4th and cry with me while I pray for CMBYN to win every award!!