Call Me by Your Name (2017)
A fantasy rich with sexual excitement, played out in sun-bleached shots of 1980s Italy. This film brings a lot to the table, and some of it it really good. Here's an all-over-the-place series of thoughts:
Elio had near limitless privilege, choosing to write music and read to pass the summer. He leaves a mess whenever he wants to, brushes off the house staff, and brags about his sex life. What makes Elio a relatable character? Despite the script he was given, Chalamet does a lot of work to make his character intriguing and watchable. By far my favorite of his performances that I've seen!
I really don't care about their age gap. Age differences shouldn't be so taboo, and this is very clearly a fantasy anyways. But the way Oliver handles his relative power felt cringey to me, and difficult to believe. The way he and Elio flirt with each other didn't really make me happy for them — I was either annoyed by their intellectual jousting, or by how little respect they often showed to each other. Queer representation is allowed to be complex or uncomfortable, but I'm not sure if I liked many of the choices made in this film.
I think Elio and Marzia's relationship was impactful and added value to the plot. I'd argue Esther Garrel was the best supporting actor. Elio checking his watch while they had sex to see how much longer until he could have sex with Oliver? That didn't sit well with me. Does poly or pan representation need to make the woman seem less valuable? Do gay men need to also have relationships with women? Bleh.
Richard Brody's review in The New Yorker is a must-read. In particular, I found this quote to be on the nose:
Half a year after their brief relationship, Oliver and Elio speak, seemingly for the first time in many months. Elio affirms that his parents were aware of the relationship and offered their approval, to which Oliver responds, “You’re so lucky; my father would have carted me off to a correctional facility.” And that’s the premise of the film: in order to have anything like a happy adolescence and avoid the sexual repression and frustration that seem to be the common lot, it’s essential to pick the right parents. The movie is about, to put it plainly, being raised right.
Elio's dad delivers a monologue near the end of the movie that I would argue is the best scene of the film. It solidifies the parents' strong influence on the plot, as described in the quote above.
This film takes risks and tries to forge its own path. I enjoyed it (I'm giving it three and a half stars!), but it is rough around the edges.