Tay’s review published on Letterboxd:
in every man’s heart, there is a summer
the first time i saw CMBYN, there were witnesses to bear my catatonia. then i cried until i fell asleep, in that warm & wet way you do when there’s nothing left for your body to do after being emotionally and physically exhausted.
the next morning, i woke up at 6, and i just had to go, go, go. so i ran. the wind was biting, almost blistering. i ran through the city, across campus, until i ended up near the building where i took my summer Latin course. when i stopped running, i sat by the same fountain i sat by almost every afternoon during the summer when i’d eat my lunch between lessons. the clouds ambled, the birds cooed, and i was completely alone.
it took me a few days to name what CMBYN made me feel. i don’t even think i named it myself. Kaitlyn nailed it, actually. neither of us have ever been in love, but she figured out that whatever she felt, and whatever i felt, and whatever we felt — it was as if we had fallen in love & then had our hearts broken for the first time. we were devastated, i think.
i was kind of hesitant to see this again. i’m starting to get sick, so i was worried that if i ended up bawling like last time, i’d really onset my cold. or worse: what if i hyped it up? what if the magic wouldn’t be there; what if the emotion wasn’t just less, but not there at all?
i did not expect to feel healed, to feel joyed. but i was. i am.
Elio’s summer in which his first great longing is born, is had, and is lost is treated with such a tenderness, such a sensitivity, such a sensibility that it hurts. but it hurts because it’s so kindhearted, because it’s so vulnerable. this is a narrative beyond love: this is longing, which knows no quelling quite like love, which begs such a totalizing vulnerability. the first time i saw CMBYN, i understood this longing to be devastating. there was a great sorrow, i think, in the idea that such a vibrant summer could be compartmentalized into one sad vision of the past.
this time around, i understood the fragmentation of CMBYN not to be partial, but rather, the act of performatively retrieving & recreating memory.
because we all have that summer in our hearts: maybe not a summer of love, but a summer of longing. when we want someone. when we want somewhere. when we want something — outside of ourselves, for ourselves.
the things we remember about that summer might not be what we expect. they might not be whole. Elio remembers stopping for water with Oliver before taking him to his “place” with sharp clarity; moments of touch, big and small, are out of focus, are soft, are almost lost to the fallacy of recollection. we can only hold onto so much in our minds. our bodies can only bear to feel so much. and our hearts, our hearts shuddering with longing — they can only remember so many touches, so many tastes, so many things.
CMBYN is dreamy in an almost surreal way; this film feels as if it exists outside of time & place. but i think this film becomes accessibly more grounded when viewed as an enactment of memory — particularly Elio’s memory of Oliver, but also Oliver’s memory of Elio, too. there is a summer in every man’s heart — how rare, how special, how surreal that these two men share that same summer.
they both remember everything.
Elio Elio Elio.
Oliver Oliver Oliver.
Guadagnino’s idyllic Italy facilitates with lushness an honest formation & forging of identity in both Elio and Oliver. they have different stakes in one another and in themselves; the degree to which they long for each other is transparently equal, though. Oliver rubs Elio’s shoulder and misunderstands his shrug off; Elio doesn’t believe himself brave enough to speak his desires aloud. when touch & truth finally unite - in a beautiful green and sunny field, as if Elio and Oliver have found themselves born again in their very own Eden - that summer of longing becomes a summer of satiation. we are fed, we are quenched, we are rewarded for daring to answer the call of our fallible hearts.
and for CMBYN, that call culminates in something temporary. something that is passionate, tender, and real, but something that does not & maybe cannot last. if this is a summer of love, it is that sad summer with a muted joy.
but i think — i hope? — this is Elio’s summer of longing. a summer in which he is not punished for what he wants; in fact, he gets what he asks for, he is rewarded for being brave. he comes into his own, relative to Oliver. this is a film about vulnerability not just with another, but with ourselves. we are dared to reckon with ourselves. perhaps we are asked to love what we want, who we want, why we want.
this is so stupidly beautiful, so poetically interwoven. i need to see this so many more times before i can even begin to make sense of all its intricacies and subtleties. this is, i think, the sublime: CMBYN exists in itself, outside of itself, beyond itself. this film may just be the very summer in some of our hearts. i know it is such a moment in mine, marked with both devastation & sorrow, but perhaps more importantly, more poignantly, more wonderfully, it is also marked with joy & atonement.