What’s Wrong with “Call Me By Your Name” (and how it could have been fixed)
I really wanted to love this film, and some parts of it I did. Perfectly trilingual Timothée Chalamet alone is worth the price of admission, and who doesn’t want to look at Armie Hammer for two hours, not to mention sumptuous Northern Italy in the summer? The dialogue was intelligent and the story itself rare to find on screen, especially treated without sensationalism or prurience. So let me be clear; I absolutely recommend this movie. Unfortunately, there were just too many moments in the script I simply didn’t believe, and for good reason.
This story, quite specifically. is very familiar territory for me personally. In 1975, when I was 17, my very liberal New York parents sent me to France for my last year of high school, in the Mediterranean region my mother is from. (She wanted me to be immersed in French at an age where I would learn it flawlessly– the younger the better.) They had no idea I was already a sexual active young gay man who’d been sneaking into the bars of Manhattan all through his junior year of high school. (I was, in fact, far more advanced than young Elio Perlman, the protagonist of Call Me…) I was supposed to live in a dorm with farmer boys who boarded at school during the week, but finagled instead becoming roommates with some cousins’ cousins in our own apartment in the center of Montpellier. At our first spaghetti dinner, I asked them if they knew any gay men. After dropping their forks, one of them mentioned he did.
One introduction led to another, and on Dec 2, 1975, I met the handsome, masculine and brooding René Martin. We fell head over heels in love, and a month later I moved in with him. I’d just turned 18, he was about to turn 29. The course of the relationship was rocky, not the least because my mother announced she was coming to France for a visit. (If you’d like to detour farther into that story, this blog post will do the trick.) Suffice to say that when it comes to the particular plot of Call Me By Your Name, you’d be very hard put to find anyone with a personal story (including time and place) that parallels so closely that of the film.
When I point out moments that ring falsely to me in the movie, it is not just as a writer who regular deconstructs screenplays. I remember that period in my life with more…