bella’s review published on Letterboxd:
Call Me By Your Name is a little bit scary. It’s transcendental in its ability to be universally felt and empathized, while being so singular and divine. As someone who’s only (probably) been in love once, this film didn’t excite me much initially. I obviously gravitate towards films to which I can relate. While I can appreciate good films without necessarily emoting to them, I don’t feel a strong connection to those features.
That’s exactly what I expected with Call Me By Your Name: something fantastic, but something that’s distant from me. Not because it features two white guys, not because they’re gay, not because it’s the 80’s. The romance aspect simply doesn’t click with me most of the time! It seems like these preconceived notions of mine lent themselves to a terrifyingly personal theatre experience. I haven’t ugly cried this dramatically in a long, long, long time. By that final shot, my friends and I were holding onto each other like lifelines.
What I’ve noticed is that this film feels personal for many people, and that’s fucking beautiful, that so many people can share this deep level of emotion over this serendipitous picture. To see these reflections, these reactions of grandeur and peace; it feels cathartic. It feels freeing and worthwhile and bonding.
Which is why I want to think about why the one and only time I’ve been in love correlated magnificently with Elio’s narrative.
I’m already lying – I’m still in love. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being in love. It didn’t occur and end. It began, and it’s been a hungry force inside me for nearly two years now. I don’t think Elio will ever get over Oliver; that sentiment of your first true love – that’s serious. That’s the truth. That’s the one who got away, who taught you more about yourself than you thought possible. Its rareness is a tragedy, because while it’s an important aspect of your identity, it’s something you’ll never retrieve, never experience again.
I pray every day that I’ll get over my crush. It’s painful to wait on something that’ll never work out in your favour. Like Elio, my person is older – double my age. Unlike Elio, my person is unattainable: out of the question / impossible / not ever going to happen no matter how frequently I dream of them / write about them / swoon in their presence.
It’s the time apart that feels the heaviest, the longest. Our time together feels short, like we have a limit. I’m never fulfilled – I will never be fulfilled. Elio feels this longing that manifests in spurts of courage, bouts of reflection and self-introspection. He is energetically curious in a way that I envy. While he wallows in his sadness at moments, he goes after what he wants. In allowing his passion to take control, Elio gains power and satisfaction out of this unlikely companionship.
I’m only crying slightly while writing this, which is a heroic feat in my opinion. It’s so cliché to relate to the protagonist in a romantic coming-of-age flick, but this is my very first time. This is the first time where the romantic words, the heartache, the utter tragedy of love rings true inside my cold heart. This year has been… interesting, for me. I’ve been challenged in defining who I want, what I want out of them. I’ve finally felt what people write about, make movies about, sing about.
And this film – this film about love – it’s scary. I’ll say it again: it is fucking scary. Because if I relate to this – if I understand why Elio asks everybody “where is Oliver?” – if I feel vastly unworthy of my person’s attention – if I’m keen on their every move – if I’m hyperaware of their needs and their abilities and their behaviours – what the fuck does that mean for me?
This isn’t supposed to be me. I’m supposed to be clean cut from all things romantic. If I had never met this person, I’d be better off. I wouldn’t be in agony and confusion and questioning every second of my identity. How can I pride myself on my independence when I’ve wilfully tied myself to their being? Few people know the depth of this relationship (how it’s turned into a sort of mentorship / invigorating friendship) and it’s because everything about it is wrong. While it feels right – it feels so goddamn right and joyous and perfect – it isn’t logically right. It’s inexplicable and painful and simultaneously overwhelmingly important to me. Why can’t I let go? Why do I need them?
Call Me By Your Name captures the angst of a young lover’s headspace in personal, sometimes funny, most often reflective snapshots. Each moment portrays another layer of what it feels like to be entirely enraptured by someone else’s presence. It’s most powerful in its way of making you remember sentiments you thought you’d forgotten. Similarly, it reminds you that you’re not alone in your heartache; while your pain is singular, it is possible to remedy.
I think I have to say that, the aspect that I empathize with most is with whom Elio falls in love. I thought it best to leave it discreet, leave them unnamed, but I’m practically bursting at the seams with nervousness at posting this at all.
Two years ago I fell in love with a woman. For the first time in my life. Not much has changed since then. I wish I could be easy on myself, forgive myself, allow myself to feel. If I had an ounce of the courage for which Elio does not give himself credit, I imagine much more in my life could’ve changed. Perhaps not all for the better, but regardless, I’ve remained uselessly stagnant and afraid.
Typically, I would never get into this part of myself. Two moments in Call Me By Your Name solidified its resonance with me. The first part being when Elio says: “if only you knew how little I know about the things that matter”. This is something I think constantly. People think it’s wonderful that I excel in school, I speak a different language, I know random facts. These words are hollow. I don’t know about the depth of love, I don’t know what it’s like to feel deeply and not detach myself from it. I don’t know about anything that counts in the long run. Thus, all compliments are unwarranted.
The second moment was, of course, Michael Stuhlbarg’s monologue. Specifically, when he says something about how we only have one life, one body, one heart. I am wasting away. I’m consciously cutting myself off, traumatizing myself. I am all that I have, and I don’t have forever to get acquainted with myself. This moment broke me. It terrified me. Am I to whither away in silence? Stuhlbarg’s words impacted me. I hope they reached a part of me that’ll mobilize my courage and discourage my fear.