Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Movie ‘Call Me by Your Name’ Disappointing

This new movie received already a lot of positive publicity if not to say hype, and rightly so, it seems. But I went to see it and was disappointed by it, for several reasons.

The Times of Israel already spent two large articles about it:

A landmark for gay cinema — and one of the best Jewish films in years

‘Call Me by Your Name’ is an honest, character-driven coming of age story that rings authentic with its sideways glance at identity politics


Film’s gay lovers bonded as Jews first, says ‘Call Me by Your Name’ writer

Coming-of-age drama, touted as one of the best Jewish movies in years, is based on a novel by an Egyptian-born Jew

After the first article, I knew already what to expect a bit and went to see it with mixed feelings to begin with. Why?

1. First of all, we know: opposites attract. It’s one of the basics in partnership. But that’s especially true for heterosexual couples. Homosexual means: attracted to the same. While there are many gay couples who consist of one or more contrasts (tall/short, heavy/thin, dark/light, old/young, extrovert/introvert, etc), very typically, many others are more two peas in a pod. They wear each other’s clothes, they have the same hairdresser, they have the same voice and expressions: identical twins.

Well, here we have the “heterosexual” gay couple: one is mature, hyper-muscled and self-assured/arrogant, the other an emotional and physical twink. One is blond, the other dark. One is tall, the other short. One is “the male” and the other “the female” – or so it seems.

And that is then supposedly offset by the younger one taking the initiative to be sexual. (His rude action is out of character and the other shows no character either when assaulted.) That makes the other then not the predator – wasn’t he invited? The best (but failing) excuse by any pedophile.

But no, the age of consent in Italy is 14, and this guy looks more like 15 or 16, so technically this is OK. Still, some of my friends saw the whole movie as an older guy taking advantage of a ten year younger guy.

And we still have the selling of gayness as identical to straightness.

2. Bad ending. There was a time when finally there were gay-themed movies coming from Hollywood but they always ended in drama. One of the two would die, preferably a horrible death, or they got separated in another way. In any case, no: And they lived happily ever after. That seemed true here too.

And it was. They started their sexual relationship despite that they were supposed to separate soon after and neither changed his plans, leaving at least the younger emotionally destroyed.

To make things worse, his father claims that he’s lucky for having found and dared true love (a bit heavy for a romance that lasted a few days), which he never dared, and his mother pretends that is all well calling the separated boy her son-in-law.

What’s so wrong with a happy ending for gay movies? This one ends literally in tears. Was the goal to promote heterosexuality; or glorify homosexual victimhood? Don’t we have enough sadness in life already?

So I saw this all coming from the first article I read. But seeing the movie didn’t make it better.

3. Vanity. The whole movie depicts a family living a life of pleasure and comfort. Nothing ever happens except being busy with art, leisure and eating. (Art can be work too but here it’s carefully presented as a higher calling.)

What’s wrong with having two guys fall in love, negotiate a life together and take care of each other?! Unfortunately, in this movie servants and maids do almost all the taking care of.

But the worst is that in the movie hardly anything happens. Maybe that is supposed to be a brilliant depiction of the boredom of rolling in wealth. And every time something actually happens, it’s a shock disturbing the stilled canvas. The playing of a song, the showing of his favorite place to his new friend, a lighthearted joke here or there, tears about the separation. When finally something happens, it’s shown so briefly and superficially that one wonders what’s the hurry.

In the end, I only asked myself if the author came from a life of self-importance himself or was utterly poor idolizing a life in the lap of luxury. The second article gives some clues.

4. The movie turns out to conflate love, in love and lust. It doesn’t take any responsibility for that as if this is the only way one could think about these things. Rather, it elevates lust to love and degrades love to lust.

5. Buttons. Yes, the movie pushes all the right buttons to get talked about: Jews, homosexuality, vulnerability of adolescence, and affluence.

But I consider watching it a waste of time, much ado about nothing.

In all fairness I need to share that the version that I watched in the Jerusalem Film Festival had no English translation for the Italian dialogues and the Hebrew was simply too quick for me to follow so that I missed a few jokes (judging from laughter from others).

Also, I just came out of a 150-minute presentation of a terrific documentary in which every minutes was crammed with interesting details, keeping me fascinated from beginning to end, although I had seen it already at home! That’s a hard act to follow.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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