Yesterday, I had the pleasure of seeing the critically acclaimed independent film entitled Call Me by Your Name. This movie is billed as a coming of age story about a young boy. As a Black gay man I am always interested in seeing movies with a gay theme. Also a couple of friends told me how the film touched them deeply so this heightened my interest. By it being an independent film the release was not as wide as a normal high budget Hollywood backed film, however, this week it made it to a theatre that was relatively close to my home. A friend reached out to me and asked if I wanted to accompany him to view the film.
I honestly had not expectations or preconceived notions prior to purchasing my ticket. I love independent films because they are typically so well done on smaller budgets. They truly live up to the phrase “do less with more”.
Elio is a 17 year old boy living with his parents in Italy. Oliver comes to Italy for 6 weeks to work as Elio father’s research assistant. Elio becomes enamored with Oliver. Oliver being American has a different attitude about everyday life and seems to come off as arrogant. Elio believes that Oliver doesn’t like him only to realize through conversation that he does think kindly of him. After they divulge their interest in each other there are some interesting and tender moments. My only issue with the film is the age difference of these two main characters. Maybe this is exposing my prude nature but to have a 17 year old boy romantically involved with a man clearly much older seems to me to be inappropriate. It did not help either that Elio is such a frail physical frame. For me the age of consent is 18 and not 17. When I see this and I have seen it in other gay films I immediately ask myself “Would the film going community think this was okay if Elio was Eliza?” Also, do we just accept this because gay men are already viewed as highly sexual individuals and therefore it is okay? I cannot remember seeing a film in recent years of a young girl of 17 involved with a clearly older adult man. Now let me say I honestly don’t look at heterosexual situations with much interest so I may have overlooked it. If I am wrong I stand corrected. However, if I am correct what does that say about us in this age of “acceptance”. Clearly there is a prejudice.
Overall, the cinematography was amazing. I enjoyed the film and it was very touching. Towards the end after Oliver returns to the states Elio is clearly heartbroken. He walks into his father’s study and they begin to talk about life and he lets his son know that he was aware of his love for Oliver as well as the pain he is experiencing. I think that every gay child on this earth wished they could have had that kind of conversation with their parent at the time. While Elio has had this very adult experience he is still a boy and the pain is incredible. The fact that they had this conversation be with his father was writing genius for we do not give fathers enough credit for nurturing. The father tells Elio, not worded exactly but…The pain you feel, deal with it and allow it to heal. Don’t pluck it out and throw it away. We often do that with hurt that by the time we are thirty years old we have nothing left to give someone. Those lines resonated with me because I can say that I have met men who are so hard and unwilling to be vulnerable because they fear being hurt. This is what we are taught as men. Just suck it up and don’t allow anyone to hurt you again. However, in the process you shut everyone out and finding love with a closed heart if impossible. And I have to also admit to some degree I have been that guy with the guarded heart. Thankfully I he is not a part of me today.
Some of us may be compelled to compare it to Moonlight, which won best picture in 2017 at the Oscars, based on subject matter. However, these are two totally different films and wonderful in their own right. Even though I had the issue with the age disparity I do recommend this film. I hope you enjoy it.