A look at three unforgettable portrayals of love & heartbreak to suit all your tearjerker needs.
All good things come to an end. It’s just a fact of life. Even the most blissful relationship could eventually run its course. Despite how joyful or sensual one’s relationship with another might have been, there’s still an inevitable farewell. In fact, three films manage to demonstrate a countdown to saying goodbye: Weekend, Call Me By Your Name, and Sorry Angel.
In addition, they are films depicting queer relationships. Whether time or other particular circumstances are an enemy, the relationships in each film become faced with a depressing conclusion. Also, the end of each entry in the unofficial “Countdown to Goodbye” trilogy goes from bittersweet to downright heart-wrenching.
The 2011 film Weekend is what begins this trilogy on a slight bittersweet note. After Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New) have a drunken one night stand, they spend the weekend getting to know each other before Glen leaves for America. As they spend time with each other, they learn about their respective weaknesses and vulnerabilities, improving each other’s weak spots in the process.
It’s clear that they have no future beyond those two days, but there is hope that they each have a better future. Russell is able to overcome his shyness, while Glen moves on from his heartbreak over a failed relationship. After the chance encounter between these two men, they could have a better love life with other partners as time goes on.
Due to the intoxicating chemistry between Cullen and New, it’s hard to not want these two men to have a future together. Also, the cinematography by Ula Pontikos, which proves to be rather inviting, rarely cuts away from the blissful yet confrontational nature of their romance. This is a weekend that it’s hard for both men, and us viewers, to say goodbye to. Yet, it’s one of those experiences where one should be grateful that it happened rather than sad it ended.
The same applies to Call Me By Your Name, the second film in this unofficial trilogy. Call Me By Your Name is similarly bittersweet and slightly more melancholic thanks to its portrait of first love. As 17-year old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) falls for Oliver (Armie Hammer), he’s introduced to both the heartbreaking and enrapturing notions of romance. Unlike the two men in Weekend, who are within the same age range, there is a slight gap between Elio and Oliver. Because of Elio’s youth and possible belief that his first love is his only love, that helps create the film’s despondent notions.
Much like in Weekend, time becomes the biggest enemy to the main couple. As opposed to two days, the film takes place over the course of a whole summer, which only prolongs Elio’s inevitable heartbreak. Both Elio and Oliver end up trying to atone for lost time as the end draws near. After dropping a few hints of affection, like rubbing Elio’s shoulder or inviting him for a swim, Oliver slowly abandons the notion that the two of them might have something together. That is, until Elio finally confesses his feelings for him and they share a kiss. To avoid crossing boundaries, Oliver is still reluctant to take their bond further.
This is a weekend that it’s hard for both men, and us viewers, to say goodbye to. Yet, it’s one of those experiences where one should be grateful that it happened rather than sad it ended.
When both men finally cave on their desires, it’s unclear what makes Oliver finally relent. It’s possible that he comes to the realization of how quickly time was passing. After the note Elio sent him before their blissful midnight meeting, he likely won’t have many more opportunities to show his affections. Despite the literal and metaphorical distance between both men up until that key meeting, director Luca Guadagnino still is able to maintain a sensual aesthetic. By letting the camera capture the soaked up, sun kissed bodies of Elio and Oliver, the film’s atmosphere becomes as burning as the Italy summer sun.
Going back to inexperience with the notions of love, the final entry in this unofficial trilogy serves as another demonstration. The French film Sorry Angel follows a university student named Arthur (Vincent Lacoste) who falls for an older, AIDS-stricken novelist named Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps). It is also set in 1993, ten years after when Call Me By Your Name takes place.
Both films may be completely unrelated, yet Sorry Angel feels like what would happen if Elio were a tad older and Oliver still tried keeping him at a ribbing distance. While there is physical intimacy depicted between Arthur and Jacques, the camera places less emphasis on their bodies, as opposed to Call Me By Your Name. It could be because there’s no summer sun in the backdrop that enhances their bodily appeal, nor is there a heavy amount of aesthetically pleasing shirtlessness, despite the film ironically having more graphic sexual content. Instead, Sorry Angel is shot and presented in a bare-bones, nonchalant manner.
That being said, there is still an appealing push and pull between the two men, and their chemistry is established right off the bat. After a chance meeting at a movie theater, they embark on a night of sensual passion. What follows is another journey of prolonged heartbreak. Because it depicts the AIDS crisis, Sorry Angel offers a devastating conclusion in this unofficial trilogy. As the film progresses, when the final goodbye even takes place is unclear. Do they even get to have a final goodbye?
It doesn’t take place over the course of two days like Weekend. Also, it isn’t set during one summer like Call Me By Your Name. Both Arthur and Jacques are faced with a dire conclusion where they can’t foresee its definite end. As Jacques sees people around him perish, he’s likely wondering when his time comes. Despite Jacques’ condition, Arthur still accepts and loves him for who he is, yet seems oblivious to the fact that Jacques will die soon, and ends up going through different measures to maintain their bliss which adds heartbreak to the story’s doomed end.
No matter how mutual or fatal it may be, everyone hates goodbyes. If anything, these three films show that while goodbyes are painful, the lead up to them doesn’t have to be, and can be an opportunity to live life to the fullest. In the case of Sorry Angel, it reminds viewers to enjoy life like each day could be your last. Meanwhile, the conclusions of Weekend and Call Me By Your Name might serve as an indication to look ahead into the future after a final goodbye. Who knows, you might be in for a brighter tomorrow if it comes. After all, tomorrow isn’t always guaranteed.
- Countdown to Goodbye: An Unofficial Modern Queer Trilogy - June 27, 2019