By all accounts, I should have loved this movie. I should have loved the book it’s based on, too.
Elio and Oliver’s summer fling is rendered in a breathtaking Italian landscape, brimming with the most beautiful, artistic imagery and set to a Sufjan Stevens soundtrack. The story takes place in 1983, and is chock full of that 80s swag and fashion that I so admire. And of course, it is an erotic love story between men. The underlying melancholy of their temporary romance is subtle and sweet.
Yes, by all accounts, I should have loved this movie, and the book it is based on.
Timothée Chamalet has been lauded for is performance. He is a young, talented actor, who speaks multiple languages and plays the piano.
By all accounts, I should have loved him, too.
My friends enjoyed the movie immensely. They see in it, I believe, a rendition of that first sweet love, or an unrealized love, maybe. A sweet, ethereal summer.
However, against all odds, this movie has left me untouched and unmoved. Against all odds, my opinion of this movie is an unpopular one.
I believe the reasons for this are threefold:
1) This is the story of a 17-year-old and a 24-year-old, the story of lust between a high school student and a research fellow. Even if they love each other equally, there’s an imbalance there, which, if the genders were different, would be difficult to ignore.
2) This is the story of a privileged few, of a queer couple, yes, but a queer elite. And Chamalet embodies that elitism to a tee. Women are mistreated by our leads, their emotions toyed with and yet, we are meant to sympathize first and foremost with Elio and Oliver.
3) The story lacks basic believability, and the lust and supposed love the characters feel comes across as an afterthought, an embodiment of their environment rather than their own emotions (which, perhaps, is the entire point). This in turn results in a fetishization of male homosexuality.
My personal disappointment aside, I understand the appeal of the movie. What I can’t condone, however, is the strange worshiping of Chamalet. Yes, he is a talented actor and musician, but his talent is not purely accidental: he was born into privilege and his talents were fostered by his family. And, like Call me by your Name, his acting has a certain beauty to it, but one that seems, at least to me, superficial, catered towards an audience who desire escapism above all else.