To write about Call Me By Your Name, which is finally opening in Boise on Friday, Jan. 19, I went back to the notebook I took to the premiere of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017 last September. Among the notes I had scribbled in the dark theater—including quotes from the screenplay, references to the scenery and sets and my overall first impressions of the film—I discovered a specific note to myself:
"I'm crying right now," I had written in my notebook. "This may be the most poignant scene ever seen between a father and son."
I had jotted those words down during the final moments of Call Me By Your Name, following a scene between 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) and his father (Michael Stuhlbarg). Elio is crumbling from heartbreak. During the summer, he had fallen in love with 24-year-old graduate student Oliver (Armie Hammer), a houseguest of his father's. Oliver had departed, leaving Elio feeling abandoned, angry, regretful and, ultimately, confused by the intensity of his feelings for another man. What Elio's father does next, I had never seen on film before. He unconditionally accepts his son's heartbreak, devoid of any assumptions, and encourages Elio to never again fear all of the joy and pain love can bring.
In the months since the September premiere of Call Me By Your Name, I have spoken to a few critics and some filmgoers lucky enough to see the movie prior to its opening. Each one has pointed to that same scene, agreeing it is what sets this film above the crowd of award contenders. The speech is full of the words and sentiment so many of us have ached to hear from a parent.
For his adaptation of Call Me By Your Name, screenwriter James Ivory pared down the father's speech from the Andre Aciman novel of the same name, but it retains its power:
"In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything—what a waste."
Those words, on paper, are monumental, but when performed by Michael Stuhlbarg, the alchemy of script and performance are pure gold. Regardless of why you see Call Me By Your Name this season, see it. The final 15 minutes and Stuhlbarg's stunning monologue are more than worth your time and attention.