It’s one of the most affecting and respected films of the 21st century. As such, a few critics are understandably upset that the film was cast with two straight actors playing gay men. In cinema, genuine queer greatness is rarely rewarded—only Ian McKellen has won an Oscar for playing an openly gay man—so it’s a bitter pill to swallow when straight, cisgender actors get the shine for playing LGBTQ characters. It’s something that Guadagnino got flack for in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. He said that “[he] couldn’t have ever thought of casting with any sort of gender agenda,” and that “[he prefers] much more never to investigate or label [his] performers in any way.”
It’s a fair point to make, and Hammer and Chalamet undoubtedly prove themselves in the film by embracing a beautiful kind of ambiguity to the confines of their characters’ sexuality and relationship. Their roles aren’t necessarily those of queer legends; the film is so intimate it could never spawn idols. Perhaps it’s more important to channel our energy to make sure the influential gay figures on screen are, rightfully so, played by the people they’ve inspired.
A perfect example of this is 120 BPM, the new film from Eastern Boys director Robin Campillo. Telling the operatic story of the French activist group Act Up! and their fight for the voices of those dying of AIDS to be heard, it’s another monumental film with gay protagonists to hit our screens this year, and all three of its leads—Nahuel Pérez Biscayart; Adele Haenel; Arnaud Valois—are queer.
But while BPM is almost about the tragedy of queer existence, Call Me By Your Name is about the ubiquitous nature of being caught off guard by lust; an awakening to a period of experimentation and blurred definitions, that doesn’t pander to the sexually-led, queer movie tropes.. You believe, fully, that these two human beings are in love—even if the men playing them aren't queer themselves.