…or “Call Me by Your Name is the Best Film of the Year and I Don’t Care What Anyone Says”
My mom used to tell me I had an obsessive personality, and that it was something I shared with my father. She couldn’t understand how we could spend all day watching the Lord of the Rings movies, or play the same song in the car over and over.
Currently, I’m unashamedly obsessed with a movie about someone who is obsessed with another person. In Call Me By Your Name, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is obsessed with Oliver (Armie Hammer). I went to see the film on one of those unbearably cold nights, eager for a simulated summer vacation to Italy. I had heard great things about the movie. By “heard great things” that I mean that my roommate has committed to promoting the film via Twitter everyday until the Academy Awards on March 4th.
Still, I went in determined to formulate my own opinion. I came out impressed, but over the next days and weeks I began to feel like I had been put into some sort of trance. Had a been brainwashed by Sufjan Stevens? Was something slipped into my overpriced movie-theater Diet Coke?
“I dreamed of Italy again last night,” I told my boyfriend. I couldn’t stop picturing pouring rain falling on stone picnic tables and silhouettes against blue-green water.
“It was like I could smell the movie,” I told a friend, trying to describe the sensual cinematography. Lingering shots of bodies relaxing on damp concrete, bare feet on wooden floorboards, the subtle but constant buzz of insects and birds in the background.
“Don’t even get me started on Timothée Chalamet,” I told another friend at a party, “unless you want to hear about this all night.” Chalamet’s portrayal of longing and self-discovery makes you feel like someone is looking into your soul—relatable to anyone who has been young and in love, regardless of the viewer’s gender or sexual orientation. The summer love story exists (for the most part) outside of politics, and I think that makes it a beautiful, though impermanent, gift.
“This is a movie about a family, compassion, transmission of knowledge, of being better people because someone’s otherness changes you,” the director, Luca Guadagnino, explained in an interview in The Guardian. He goes on to explain the deep need we have for this now in our increasingly individualistic society.
But it’s more than that. This movie feels like a poem. It’s about indecisions and revisions. It’s men in shirt sleeves leaning out windows. It’s carefully measured days. They talk of sculpture and language. They walk upon the beach. They dare to eat a peach. The women come and go. (They mostly go.)
After my first kiss with my first serious boyfriend, my nose immediately started bleeding. He didn’t notice, and I just said I had to go to the bathroom and was back in a matter of minutes. I never told him. Perhaps it was the dry, airplane air. It was embarrassing, but of no consequence. I hadn’t thought about this moment for years, but it came to mind when Elio has a random nosebleed about halfway through the film. This one of many details that does nothing to advance the plot but exists to build tension and the audience’s connection with the characters. This detail exists only to amplify Elio’s vulnerability. It’s a detail a poet would use while readers would scramble to interpret it. It reminded me that we relate to art in the details.
I have been so in love that all the light around me seemed white-hot. I have spent days where I only remember the smell of sunlight and skin. I have said goodbye at train stations in Europe. I have been told to not look back.
“God, we wasted so many days,” Elio says near the end of the film, wishing he and Oliver had confessed their mutual attraction sooner. Because we do look back. We look back at the times we were deliriously happy, and try not to be too sad that they ended.
I’ll leave you to experience the fatherly advice monologue at the end of the film for yourself, but it reminded me of a Pam Houston quote that’s haunted me for years: “You only get a few chances to feel your life all the way through. Before —you know — you become unwilling.”
I’m definitely still willing to be intoxicated by stories of fleeting beauty. Actually, I think I’m still drunk.
Caroline Higgins (’11) lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she spends the vast majority of her time teaching English Language Arts. You may also find her at barre exercise classes or playing (and losing) at bar trivia. She continues to be inspired by the energy and diversity of New York City and the beauty of that certain slant of light.