There’s a seminal scene in the 2017 film Call Me By Your Name. No, not the one where Oliver did not eat the peach; we’ve discussed that to death. There’s a scene towards the close of the film where Elio’s father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg gives a moving monologue.
“When you least expect it, nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot,” Stuhlbarg says as Professor Perlman, consoling a heartbroken Elio. “Just remember: I am here. Right now, you may not want to feel anything — maybe you never wished to feel anything and maybe it’s not to me that you’ll want to speak about these things. But feel something, you obviously did.”
“You had a beautiful friendship,” he continued, referencing Elio and Oliver’s romance. “Maybe more than a friendship, and I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, to pray that their sons land on their feet but I am not such a parent. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster, and we go bankrupt by the age of 30, and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing, so as not to feel anything; what a waste.”
The speech is moving, incisive, touching, and is arguably some of the best writing of the film.
“I’ll say one more thing,” he says taking a drag on his cigarette. “It’ll clear the air: I may have come close, but I never have what you two have. Something always held me back, or stood in the way. How you live your life is your business.”
Later Elio almost whispers: “Does mom know?”
“I don’t think she does,” Perlman says looking off.
It seemed that the subtext was clear to many viewers: Perlman was envious of Elio’s relationship to Oliver, of the love that was there, as he had never experienced something like it. He was warning his son to protect the ability to have those emotions. So, he must be specifically talking about being in a relationship with another man right?
“This was not at all my intention when I wrote the book,” AndreAciman, the straight man that wrote the Call Me By Your Name novel, on which the film was based, recently told GQ. “The movie has basically validated that particular approach. And I have to say that I can see that this is equally a valid approach to the father’s speech.”
“The father may have been attracted to men or not, we don’t know from the book,” Aciman continued. “From the movie, you have every right to infer that. But not in the book. So when he splits with his wife, he’s not splitting because he has homosexual tendencies, but simply because something must have gone wrong in their marriage.”
The sequel, Find Me, which is out now, revolves around Perlman who finds himself in a new relationship with a woman. And no, there’s no “peach scene” equivalent this time.