The Films Of My Youth
Film has the power to define, break, build, and inspire, or at the very least entertain. It is especially crucial among young people, for growing up is a process of reinvention— trying on different personalities, throwing away what doesn’t fit, and holding onto the qualities we admire. Film is an outlet to be understood, or in the purest moments, to simply be. Thus, these are the films of my youth.
Until recently, I didn’t know that people made films. Movies have always seemed so distant and unattainable- like money-making inventions rather than an art form. I did not know that quotidian aspects of life mattered— that growing up mattered, coming of age mattered. I was unaware that falling into and out of oneself could be deemed essential through film. Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird taught me this.
I met Christine McPherson only two years ago when the rest of the world became entranced by her pure originality and car-escaping antics. I watched her transform and navigate her senior year of high school, though I was only fifteen. I yearned as she yearned, found and lost myself as she found and lost herself, and with every replay of the soundtrack, we grew up. Together we submerged and resurfaced against the waves of adolescence— falling in and out of groups, communities, and identities as fiction overlapped with reality. We ached for more- an escape, a purpose, to live through something. And in some ways, don’t we all? The moment that stays with me is the scene where Lady Bird is emotional as she drives through Sacramento for the first time on her own to Jon Brion’s lovely soundtrack and realizes that her coming of age signifies her mother’s letting go. It is not simply age that fleets, but places— hometowns develop and deteriorate, and will never truly be the same— and people— best friends, first loves, and a phone call now separates one from those they once so readily called Mom or Dad.
How tragic it is to let go of youth.
Last year, I was introduced to Elio Perlman and was allowed to peek into his world for one Italian summer. Call Me By Your Name documents love— the unrequited kind, not uncommon among people. Luca Guadagnino crafts every scene so that it appears as visually delicate and monumental as a first love resonates internally. In the midst of adolescence, everything feels like everything. We do not know that our first love is our first or that our feelings should be nurtured not ignored. And our oblivion while painful only enhances the raw, unabashedly authentic emotion we experience when we watch someone on screen who also feels as deeply as we do. The moment that exemplifies the movement and tension of any good sequence is in the middle of the film when Elio and Oliver are tiptoeing to their room when Elio’s parents have gone to sleep, and it is as if they are in slow motion or treading water- on the brink of drowning but at the moment floating blissfully. Nevertheless, the ending is the most well known. With Sufjan Stevens’ “Visions of Gideon” humming in the background of the final scene, I did not cry for Elio, but rather, I cried with him and the tragedy of evanescence. This intimate conversational connection I felt with Elio was something I did not want to share. Elio Perlman, his insecurities, tears, and confusion were just as much mine as they were his. Therefore, allocating him to the world felt like an injustice both to him and myself, for understanding him, made me feel understood. It seems love has a way of doing that to a person.
I must admit that though humbled by the cinematic connections I have experienced through film, I believe the most superior movie of all does not exist. I suppose it is irrelevant what Greta or Luca intended for these films. Though art is born in the mind of the artist, it is accomplished in the mind of the audience. I can only assume that the most tragic of feelings are the ones felt alone. There is comfort— dare I say inspiration?— in not having to grow up alone.
Film is a universal language, the chance to be represented, seen, understood exactly as you are. Film is escapism, art, a process of catch and release. I am honored to have experienced this connection— this intersection between fiction and truth— however one-sided. I hope to never live in a world where performances and stories do not move me. I think I enjoy being moved.