Call Me By Your Name was an emotional experience for anyone who has had to love and let go.
For me it was an even more emotional experience. Just two hours before seeing this beautifully sad tale of a love lost, I found myself standing at the corner of 53 street and 8th avenue, looking into the eyes of someone I love, and thinking I was losing them. It’s been a rollercoaster ride over the past two and a half years for me and this incredible human being, but so is life, and as Call Me By Your Name so beautifully showed us, not everything works out as we expect, plan, or hope.
We all have things that we are insecure about, and when someone unexpectedly shows up in our lives that reminds us that we aren’t alone in those insecurities, life feels immensely less lonely.
And that is what we all want, to be less lonely. To find someone that we can share our secrets with, to feel related to, and to feel like time slows down and you’re the only two people in the world in those moments together.
However with finding that person comes the possibility that we may not get to have them forever, and that is what makes love so scary, deep, and honest.
The final moments in this tale of love sent a message that we all need to hear. The father, Mr. Perlman, played by Micheal Stuhbarg gives one of the most eloquent pieces of advice to his son, Elio, played by Timothée Chalamet that I have ever heard.
The speech’s text, which follows and is a light spoiler if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book yet, hits to the core of who we are as humans. But even more so, what we need to be conscious of as we go through this wild thing we call life, regardless of your age, sex, religion, race, or whatever.
“In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough,” Mr. Perlman says. “But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don’t snuff it out, don’t be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we’d want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste!”
What a waste in deed, and what an imperative thing to hear. We spend so much time running from being uncomfortable, shielding ourselves from pain, and trying to conform to societal norms.
Because in our youth we stood out for better or worse about something, and someone, most likely our parents, or someone of authority told us that it wasn’t good. It could’ve been a small, insignificant, passing statement to them, but to us it was something that would sit in our essence and core forever. I know that as you read this you can probably recall such a statement. For me, it was the countless peers telling me I was less than with words like "faggot" being thrown at me daily, and while those words burned so deep, it was actually hearing my dad tell me that I had a big nose at the age of 12 or so that buzzes in the background of my identity.
It was the first time I had ever really considered my looks in general, and to have them scrutinized in a negative way would be the beginning of my own physical insecurities. My father's words coupled with the constant ridicule of my peers is what continues to be at the center of any insecurities I know I still hold onto today.
I don’t share this piece of personal history as a way to garner sympathy, but simply to say, I understand deeply how badly we yearn for approval, specifically from our parents, and when we don’t get that approval the way Elio does, it can extinguish our light, our uniqueness, our flames. Something Elio's father brilliantly warns him against.
While Call Me By Your Name is having an incredibly successful run at the moment, and I personally loved the film, I know many people have their fair share or criticism. However, beyond the movie, what I found to really be such a special experience was to sit in a sold out theatre full of mostly gay men and watch everyone around me feel that they had been seen and heard.
To know that the showing before and after the one I sat in was sold out, and almost all other showings of Call Me By Your Name have been sold out, reminded me that it has been years since a gay centric movie has been at the center of pop culture. As far as I can remember, nothing since Brokeback Mountain or Milk has really come close to what Call Me By Your Name is currently experiencing in terms of relevance, popularity, and importance. With the current administration making so many of us feel like second class citizens, this film is providing not only a safe space for us outcast at a very compulsory time, but for younger generations to hear words that are healing, caring, and empowering.
Love it or hate it, Call Me By Your Name will leave you feeling as if you’ve been thrown back to your younger even more insecure self, but in a way that makes you feel grateful to have made it to today. Even more so, it will remind that your flame still burns deep inside of, you just have to care for it, and let it brighten each day through self-care, being a little kinder with yourself, and love.