ash’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Is it better to speak or die?”
I’ve been feeling like crap lately. Ready to move on, but uninspired. Lingering on a feeling of emptiness, and instead open to any other feeling, potent as they may come, unafraid if it were to be a happy or sad or painful sentiment, as long as it were feeling. Lost, confused, muddled in my own thoughts, my own plans, my own ambitions, feeling like I don’t know who I am — maybe I don’t, maybe I never did? — who am I at this moment, is this person any different from who I was when I first saw this film, will he be any different by the time I see it next.. I don’t know.
Call Me By Your Name is a very special film to me. It’s since been entangled with messy real life narratives — external to the film itself — but it keeps a special place in my heart, notwithstanding its real life debacles that exist far outside the film and its initial release. I first saw the film at the London Film Festival, it was the first film I ever saw at a film festival. I only saw two films that year at my initial film festival experience, this and The Shape of Water (which I liked very much). I vividly remember this being one of the few things then at the festival that I wanted to see purely for the story, and what the trailer was like — not based upon pre-existing fanaticism for any of the actors or filmmakers involved — it ended up being one of only two things I saw that year, the only one of which I had gone into without knowing anything about anyone involved in the film (besides the obvious Hollywood supporting actor, who we rightfully don’t talk about now). I came out with tears sketched into my face. I didn’t love and treasure it as much then as I plentifully do now, but it clearly affected me, some deep evocation of truths that arrived at a most timely period in my life.
I was sixteen, I had just moved away to this massive, sprawling, bustling city — it’s the time in your life where you’re most adamantly eager to discover who you are, but perhaps also the time where you’ll end up most uncertain and undefined about it. That entire first year there was filled with so much uncertainty and this constant presence of feeling lost in myself; there was so much good and fun and insight and beauty, but also so, so much naive, callow, adolescent qualm. Watching this masterpiece upon my first few weeks of moving there was at the very least foundational to me learning more about who I was, who I wanted to be, and who I’ve always been. It’s truly amazing what art can be for someone — a guiding light, an insightful voice, a kind of peace and solace in the middle of a storm, a way of seeing the world anew and differently, and in honesty, even if exaggerated, a sort of rebirth. There is no real boundary to what art can be and what it inspires, what it stirs, what it evokes in others. Art is not just a form of entertainment or leisure, it’s insight, it’s educational, it’s humanity, it’s beauty, it’s a way of understanding yourself through the lens and stories of others, a way of more-and-more comprehending the complex and layered and utterly varied experience of being human. This was the first film that truly helped me come to terms and understand parts of my identity that felt so distantly locked away somewhere deep inside me and my layers and layers of walled up sentiments.
It helped me come to terms with the nature of my sexuality, and gave birth to this new understanding I slowly but maturely grew into with my feelings towards men, and not just women. For the first time in my life, after moving thousands of miles away from my truly truly backwards, traditionalist country, where parts of me have always and still do feel locked away and hidden when there, I understood what my feelings towards others truly meant as a whole, I was able to come to terms with my bisexuality and for the first time, independently try to understand that, and try to really grasp who I was, finally free from all the many sentiments and feelings and truths that had previously been latent. This film, this beautiful film about coming of age and trying to understand your sexuality and attempting to comprehend the concept of real love and the naivety or sincerity attached to it, filled with frames of intimacy more personal than many other works of art ever get, this film was what helped me understand myself; art, art allows you to understand yourself, deeper and deeper, thoroughly, sincerely, openly. That’s the beauty of art, of films like this that can evoke such furtive, deep-rooted, latent truths, and the overarching empathy and intimacy of its eventual cathartic attachments to us. That’s what I really needed today, that’s what I’ve really been needing a reminder of recently — the preciousness and honest human beauty of art, and the extensive capabilities and reach of its influence and effect. I may be encircled by some sort of fleeting melancholia right now, feeling ever lost in this deluge of confusion and uncertainty, but I’ll always be glad to have films like this around to be constantly reminded of why I love art and want to make it, but also why I love life, in all its natural, mortal poeticism. It’s a special film to me, and I’ll always hold it close to me, for everything it’s been to me over the years, and everything it’s helped me understand.
Is it better to speak or to die? Maybe it is better to speak. Life is transient, time is inevitable, these precious moments are all evanescent, and death reaches us all eventually, so what worse is there in speaking out into eventual heartbreak over that of regret, if the former at the very least sparks a brief, faint hope of possibility, wether lived or not. Endings are ineludible, so why not live truthfully?