One Author Says 'Call Me By Your Name' Is About Abuse, Not Love10:49
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Armie Hammer as Oliver (left) and Timothée Chalamet as Elio in "Call Me by Your Name." (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)
Armie Hammer as Oliver (left) and Timothée Chalamet as Elio in "Call Me by Your Name." (Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics)

The Oscar-nominated film "Call Me by Your Name" is a coming-of-age story about a 17-year-old named Elio and his brief romance with a 24-year-old grad student, Oliver, who comes to work with Elio's father.

Some, including author Cheyenne Montgomery, say they're disturbed by the age difference between the two protagonists — one portrayed as a boy, the other a man.

Montgomery (@cowboy_montg), who was abused by a teacher as a high school student, joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss why she sees the movie as a "deftly directed, beautifully photographed, wonderfully acted master class in sexual predation and abuse."

Interview Highlights

On a moment in the film that reminded Montgomery of her experience, and how her abuser would give and then withdraw approval

"[Oliver] keeps asking Elio to tell him what he's thinking about. And it reminded me of my own experience, because it was word for word what my abuser said to me over and over again. The child just developmentally isn't in a position to really know what they wanna do, and what they wanna tell that adult. It's very confusing for a child.

"It reminded me of that because, in my head, as a 15-year-old or a 16-year-old, I very much believed that I was in control, and that I was able to consent, and I would say, that's part of being 16, is you have that illusion that you're on top of things. But in fact, an adult has the ability to ... the adult is developmentally in a position where they are able to play with a teenager's emotions in a way that a teenager can't even really understand what's happening."

"As a 15-year-old or a 16-year-old, I very much believed that I was in control, and that I was able to consent, and I would say, that's part of being 16, is you have that illusion that you're on top of things."

Cheyenne Montgomery

On who she was as a high school student

"Like Elio, I was precocious. I basically had sent myself to boarding school, I was a scholarship student, it wasn't something that was really even on my parents' radar, it was something I decided I wanted and it was something I figured out how to do. I thought I was an adult, and I had an adult who had lots of access to me take advantage of that, and take advantage of where I was ... I really was a child, I was isolated, I was looking for approval, like children do."

On those who see the film as depicting a beautiful, end-of-summer romance

"I would say that it's not a question of a gray-area age gap. Elio is portrayed very much as a child: He shaves peach fuzz off of his face, he cuddles with his parents, his lines are often kind of bratty and childlike, and he's being played as a sexy romantic partner to a character who's very much being portrayed as an adult."

On what she's heard from people about her story

"A lot of people contact me directly because they appreciate what I've said, and they maybe identify with my story, and I know from my own experience that when you start hearing other people's stories, it makes it easier to tell your own. On the other hand, I hear a lot of people who are upset with me. A lot of people present me with the argument, 'Well, the age of consent is 14 in Italy.' Just because something's technically legal doesn't make it ethical. I've heard people say I couldn't possibly understand it because I'm not a gay man. I am gay. I do understand how lonely it can be to be a gay teenager in the '80s. And I understand how difficult it is to not see good representation of yourself."

On whether someone might see the film differently if its setting or characters were different

"I'm kind of confused as to why this movie got the Oscar nomination, I guess, considering what it is. My best guess is because the young person was a boy and not a girl. But we also have seen 'Riverdale,' it's an Archie Comics turned into a TV show, and the first season of it features the main character, Archie, romantically involved with his teacher. 'Pretty Little Liars' is another example where you have a student and a teacher being featured in a romance. 'Pretty Little Liars,' I didn't see it until my own daughter as a middle schooler was watching it, and I was like, 'Oh, my God.' "

This segment aired on February 15, 2018.

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