Coming of Age to Coming Full Circle: An Essay

This essay is by our guest writer, Maddy Lovelace. 

Amira Casar and Timothée Chalamet in Call Me by Your Name (2017) © Sony Pictures Classics

It is evident in the way Elio Perlman’s entire psyche is altered by mature graduate student Oliver within the summer of 1983 that there is a new funk hidden in this archetype we’ve seen before, possibly a homage to film in previous times that mirrored life and love and sensuality. Director of 2017’s Call me by your name Luca Guadagnino’s direct view of these themes can be attributed to similar work such as James Ivory’s 1987 film Maurice, revealing just how impactful an insightful reception of a cinematic journey can be upon a wandering eye. There is a direct link between the lovers in the two films, how they carry their heavy consciousness regarding love around like a summer coat. Coming of age continues to carry this magnified burden of life through the generations, consequently allowing itself to unfold through emerging artist’s diverse and retrospective lenses. In Guadagnino’s usage of Elio’s ambiguous yet direct understanding of his sexuality, he plays to this new medium that audiences of cinema have come to love because they parallel the undertones of the self that linger within the events at hand. Elio is not shocked by the way his love for Oliver takes place so hauntingly because he knew, as audiences come to feel in the film’s soft essence, Elio knows of his truth long before Oliver arrives. Oliver in this sense serves as the catalyst for Elio’s subconscious desires that have been there since the beginning yet remained dormant. Guadagnino captures the fire and flame of Coming of age cinema in his perceptive parallelism to reality. Could this be the new standard for films based on
a shifting point in life?

Annette Bening and Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women (2016) © A24

In Mike Mill’s 2016 psychedelic relic 20th Century Women his protagonist Jamie is lovable yet unknowing about how to be loved, another well-known feeling and sentiment in cinema yet contrarily it transcends that mold. Directors of these triumphant films have obvious inspirations, some taking form in their work, though it is only recognizable if one is looking for it. There is a high potential for creative originality as we approach the 2018/2019 film circuit, new minds emerging more and more frequently as times change, yet underneath the times there is this persistent thematic tone that finds itself playing The Tell-Tale Heart of film. Unabashed in its execution, in its simple complexity, 20th Century Women exposes the misunderstood, utterly confused, and exhausted youth in all of us. The method in which Mills handles this trope isn’t careless as feels as if it is being caressed carefully, Jamie’s indecision regarding sex and romanticism with his sordid friend Julie taking place slowly as other aspects of his immature life belittle him. Love is approached gently in this film with the presence of maternal figures in Jamie’s upbringing, pushing him to his coming of age moment that is hidden in the small but heavy events that slowly expose his desires as they are. Jamie’s entire trilogy of mind is a link to the unbridled humanity that exists in friendships, in romantic moments, and in the mess of life that we go through before it is clear to us what we believe in. In regards to Coming of age films that fall under the same feel, they believe in humanity.

Laurie Metcalf and Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (2017) © A24

During the most recent film season the world was introduced to the magic of Greta
Gerwig’s authentic mind, her 2017 film Lady Bird becoming a trailblazer for Coming of age for the new age. Lady Bird is set in 2002 Sacramento, a dreary period for protagonist Christine McPherson’s call to womanhood. The film highlights Lady Bird’s subjectivity to peer pressure, her perplexed take on boys/love, and the magnified relationship that exists between her and her equally as headstrong mother. It is rare in film that we see such genuine performances that mirror actual existential moments as Lady Bird does, making it another impactful piece of cinema that has altered the Coming of age genre as well as modern cinema as we know it. There is so much room for new ideals in film as the medium has shifted to follow the way we have moved along in our openness to display things without a filter. The time for movies to retell our unconventional stories is now, before us, with just enough cinematic influence left to make the experience of a realistic fantasy available for an hour or two. Whether it be Frances ha struggling with another young adult melodramatic incident or six year old Moonee caught in a whirlwind of harsh realities she has yet to grapple with, Coming Of age cinema reflects the hardened moments we hate to remember yet will never leave behind. The circle of morality that exists ambiguously in life as it does in film will be the undying link between cinema and reality that defies the unpredictable nature of time.

Maddy Lovelace is a guest writer for Much Ado About Cinema. She can be found on twitter hereIf you would like to contribute your own essay or review to the site, please email, or use the contact form provided.

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