2017 was a stacked year. If we just take a glance at the Best Picture nominee list, there is the consensus that any single one could have brought home the Oscar in 2018. Get Out offered smart social satire, Lady Bird demonstrated that the coming-of-age film doesn’t have to be cliche and predictable, and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri tackled real world issues and provided an unflinching look at death and grief.
I could go on and on about the movies from 2017, but that’s not what I am here to do, because today we have a singular task at hand, and that’s examining a wonderfully poignant moment in Call Me By Your Name. Call Me By Your Name is a love story, it is also a coming-of-age film, with young Elio (Timothée Chalamet) navigating the path of first love and sexuality.
Luca Guadagnino’s film is beautiful, intoxicating, and paints such an authentic relationship between the two main characters Elio and Oliver (Armie Hammer). The leads and the ensemble all came together like a nicely assembled jigsaw puzzle, the backdrop dripping with sensuality and the juice of peaches. I could pause the film at any moment and it would be worth writing about – in a world constantly speeding through the process, Call Me By Your Name takes its time with the viewer, and by the end of it you are a weeping mess. But the most memorable moment for me, without a doubt, is Elio’s chat with his father (Mr Perlman, played by Michael Stuhlbarg) after Oliver leaves.
Here’s the thing about falling in love; it is an insular thing, the outside world stepping away while you move closer to each other. While Elio was falling in love with Oliver, his parents were watching him do so, though he wasn’t aware of it and thought he was hiding the whole thing pretty well. A person falling in love is unmistakable though, as we ourselves could tell from the beginning what Elio was feeling.
A parent’s role in their child’s romantic life varies; some are supportive and offer a listening ear, some are vehement at the idea of love and sex at a young age. Elio’s father takes it in a different direction, by truly empathising with his son, not speaking in platitudes of time healing all wounds, but understanding that the wounds from love are a powerful thing.
Whenever we are scorned in love, or experience heartbreak, our response is to repress – to snuff out any sense of lingering emotion. Because it hurts. It hurts to know you won’t be able to be with this person, that your job now is to get over them, to shovel dirt over this heartache and bury it deep inside of yourself. Instead, Elio’s father tells him to embrace it, to see the beauty in what they shared together, and acknowledge the rarity of an experience like that.
How often do we get to love in such a way, finding a person who satisfies and completes us in every single way? So, while the impulse may be to “rip out” parts of ourselves so that we can “be cured of things faster”, if we keep doing that, in the end we will be left with nothing – a shell of a person numbed to the point of oblivion. There is no judgement from Elio’s father, just the offer of a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, in order to tide him through the inevitable pain.
I cried for a long time after watching this scene, more so than any other scene in this movie (though it drew many tears from me), because I didn’t have someone to tell me to do that. After rejection, all I wanted was to forget all the pain, and with that forgetting, I lost the part of myself that was brave and daring. She disappeared into a forest of falling leaves, wearing a gold dress and surrounded by gold leaves – I stare at her from behind a window, in a space that is empty and vacant. I should have brought her along as I dived into other relationships, but it was too late by then.
The great thing about this scene is that this response is not only when it comes to love. We apply it to every facet of our lives as well, wanting to cut and sever rather than nurse and heal. If we are disappointed by our dreams, then we leave them behind and think about them no further, relationships and people relegated to the past because we don’t want to deal with the pain.
This scene is an acute understanding of the human condition, with an urgent message to resist. The hurt, the heartache, the disappointment – it’s all part of who you are. So wrap up the wounds, let them heal, and go out and love again.
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