Queer Eye’s culture expert Karamo Brown has a thing or two to say about Call Me By Your Name.
Talking to Insider, Brown shares that he’s not fond of the story glorying a relationship with such a clear age difference.
"I’ve worked with many survivors of sexual assault, especially in the LGBTQ community, which often times goes unreported. And so the minute I saw that movie, I thought, ‘Here we are glorifying this sort of relationship,'” he said.
“I know we’re calling him a college student, but it looks like a grown man having sex with a little boy. And for me, I just was not OK with that. And I was like, ‘Why are we pretending like this is OK in any sense? Fashion or form?'”
He then added:
"I haven't read the book, but I understand that the college student character is like, 19 years old [Oliver is 24 in the book]. And so the relationship between him and this 17-year-old boy — I guess it 'makes more sense,' and I'm doing air quotations there," Brown said. "But there is predatory behavior there that I see, especially in the movie, where Armie Hammer looks dramatically older than this young man."
"I think to myself, 'If that was an older man, or a perceived college student who looked that much older with a 16 or 17-year-old girl, we would have all had a hissy fit.' We would have recognized that this is a problem. But for some reason, because it was two men, we're just like, 'Oh, well this is just exploration,'" Brown continued.
This is an argument that’s come around several times since the first trailer for the film dropped. Let's look at what both sides of this argument are saying.
In the novel and movie's story, 17-year-old Jewish-Italian boy Elio is 17-year-old when 24-year-old graduate student Oliver stays at his Italian villa for the summer. In the film, Elio was played by then 20-year-old Timothée Chalamet and Oliver was played by then 29-year-old Armie Hammer.
Many, like Brown, balk at the fictional age difference. After all, a 24-year-old graduate student will have a totally different mindset, world perspective, and place in the world than a 17-year-old.
Others have argued that during the story's time period, 1983, the age of consent in Italy was 14-years-old. Plus, Slate senior editor Jeffrey Bloomer argues that we shouldn't deny any chance of a loving/consensual relationship based on our own biases.
"We need to resist the revulsion that often comes with thinking about sexual relationships outside the idealized 'charmed circle' (of the straight, married, same-age sort) and consider the specifics of the situation," Bloomer wrote. "That's not to give cover to pedophilia or any other form of violation, but to acknowledge that human desire can be far more complex and intractable than we might like to admit. Not every relationship removed from our comfort zone is abuse."
The film's cast/staff argues that the script doesn't divulge into a “problematic” or “predatory” storyline.
"Outside the context of the movie [that question] makes more sense. But when you see the film and read the book it is so not part of the equation,” Chalamet said in a Metro USA interview last year when asked if there was a predatory nature to the relationship.
He added: “That’s a conversation worth having after people have seen the film. But everyone in my experience who has seen it hasn’t had that conversation. Because the relationship couldn’t be more consensual and full of love.”
While some may feel uneasy with the age difference on paper, the real problem was with the film's depiction of Oliver. Specifically, the real problem is in the casting for the film.
Let’s face it, Armie Hammer just doesn’t look like a 24-year-old. The casting of Hammer ultimately creates this “predatory” and “problematic” look to the film. Because of this, Karamo Brown’s argument is completely justifiable.
Despite Call Me By Your Name’s well-meaning attempt at exploring sexual awakening and self-realization, the poor casting of the film will eternally upend it.