A film that throws tags and stigma away and shows human connection as it should.
It is not strange to see a movie about love, and nowadays [thankfully] neither to see a movie about love between two men, women, etc. What is different though, is to see a story in which there’s not prohibition but a thoughtful realization that human connection is more important than anything else.
Call Me By Your Name tells the story of Elio, a young guy who spends much of his time in a small Italian town. His appetite for reading and playing music makes him an unusual 17 years old guy, at least under the standards usually presented in movies. His father, a professor, brings a young assistant every summer; this time it was Oliver who came, a 24 years old American graduate.
What we witness in Call Me By Your Name is essentially the development of Elio and Oliver’s friendship and future romance. On one side, the film makes a perfect representation of what a young guy goes through in his sexual awakening, discovery and curiosity, represented by Eliot; and on the other side, under Oliver’s wing, there’s the secret and yet freedom of having a romantic experience. It is a love story.
But reducing the movie solely to a love story would be a crime, not because it spends more time focusing on other things, but because it tenderly presents other aspects of life that make the story even more meaningful, like the challenges of parenting today, the culture’s impact and overall the growth we all go through in life, filled with joy and pain.
Set in 1983 at an Italian town, Call Me By Your Name takes on the edge of a time in which a man-man relationship was seen more as a taboo, as it is still seen in many places. And although there have been some comments regarding the lack of more political topics like AIDS given the year it is set, and the already mentioned homophobia, Call Me By Your Name prefers to leave such things aside to present a story that doesn’t fall into what could be seen as “clichés”, to be able to present a story in which human connection is fundamental no matter what. Italy is, without a doubt, an important piece in the puzzle of the story given its traditions and the fact that Elio lives with his family in a representative villa. The music, the hunger for books, discoveries and a barely existent technology development, make up for characters that don’t really worry about the outside world.
Elio, thanks to his age, is going through a phase of sexual discovery and therefore his fears are latent. His attraction towards Oliver can’t be public because (even though the movie doesn’t really show a single moment of homophobia) he reckons it’s not something that would be seen as normal or natural. But at the same time, he can’t actually control his feelings, which is why he takes action in order to satisfy his curiosity and ultimately get closer to Oliver, leading them to live the summer that would change their lives.
As for Oliver, he represents (in Elio’s eyes) the experience and secrecy that society has glued to him. But more than that, Oliver’s job in the movie is to give Elio a sense of youthfulness and hope that he wishes he could live in. He is nostalgic of being as young as Elio, one of the reasons why he tells Elio the first night they sleep together to call him by his (Elio’s) name and vice-versa —from there the story’s title. Oliver is scared to not be good enough for Elio, and he knows what the outside world could do to them.
But here’s where the movie sets itself apart from basically any other movie showing a relationship that is not one with a man and a woman. Elio’s parents make up for the sense of family that nowadays we all, with good hearts, want to see. Accepting parents who don’t need their kids to leave any closet because it’s non-existent; who don’t judge their kids for the ones they fall in love with, no matter the race, gender or background; who see in human connection the door for their kids to learn about life and be better people, be kind and build a better society. It’s a modernization of parenting and one that even today still feels a bit away from reality.
And there could be discussions around the fact that this movie seems to show an environment that doesn’t exist. After all, it is set in a remote small town in Italy, which makes it easy to argue that such location is a metaphor for how this place is not real anywhere. And that’s fair, it’s like a bubble right now, but a bubble that needs to be expanded. It is ultimately not a lie, it is hope for our world to make it real.
Which is why things get even more special, because thanks the parents’ treatment and the overall non-judgmental culture in the movie, the story can focus in the bond that the two main characters develop and that in the end make this a movie about human connection and love, without tags or further explanation and/or validation. Age is not a concern either, there is an age gap between both characters and yet it is never taken as an obstacle for them to be whatever they want to be.
If there had to be a reduction of words to describe Call Me By Your Name it would be “human connection”. This movie sets the tone for upcoming movies that want to show love in all of its shapes and to make it in a way in which it stops being stigmatized. It is important to show how intolerance is still pretty much present in this world and what the repercussions of it are; but it is also important, if not more, to focus as well in the good when there is not intolerance, and how our world has to aim for a place in which there’s no need to come out of a closet or feel pressure for who we choose to love or even be friends with. This is a movie that plays such role in the most tender, real and touching way, managing to inspire and leave the audience thinking for hours and days about the story, and how better the world would be if we all paid attention, if we stopped judging.
Let’s be kind.