Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name ★★★

This movie gave me some mixed signals. Tell me if you think this is socially acceptable: an American grad student, 24, flies out to Northern Italy to spend a summer in residence with his research professor's family, during which time he is the catalyst for the 17 year old daughter's sexual awakening. I know, it happens all the time in the midwest (though normally this dynamic plays out more often in the trailer park), and out here it is kind of wink-wink pedophilia, but depending on a whole gamut of parameters (socioeconomic status mainly) it isn't really talked about or flagged as an issue. Well, that's the premise of this film except it's the son instead of the daughter. So, in light of Kevin Spacey, the character's age, the fact that Italy's age of consent is 14, and the bisexual/gay context, I'm unsure how to approach this film. I know that people younger than 23 haven't had the convenience of their frontal lobes fully developing, and that makes for complicated, dramatic relationships. If I hadn't seen Luca Guadagnino's previous film A Bigger Splash, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt - that he's genuinely interested in exploring the sting of first romance in the context of comparing European and American societies' perspectives on homosexuality. But there is a 17 year old girl in A Bigger Splash used as an implement of sexual desire for an older man, so it seems like these "kids" are being used as cheap transgressive thrills. I know Guadagnino isn't a writer/auteur, but he clearly intended these two movies and 2009's I am Love as his "Desire Trilogy", and I can't help but glare at them like Chris Hansen. Pushing those issues aside, the film is care-free and never falls victim to the "gay tragedy" trope. In fact, there's a quiet, if not a little hedonistic pride in being whatever and loving whatever you want, which I can certainly appreciate. Michael Stuhlbarg delivers a very touching monologue near the end that seems to encapsulate the tribulations of learning who you are and how the world works, yet never letting it tell you who you must be. It's a summer movie, bright and subtle, full of swimming and new wave music and Sufjan Stevens - not really my bag, but I can see why it's getting praise in the cinephile circles.

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