This post contains mild, silly spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Our brains are primed to make connections, often in ways that surprise our conscious minds. For instance, I can’t listen to “Hair Body Face” from the Star Is Born soundtrack without thinking Ally is about to say “Triple threat / Dua Lipa.” It gets me every time! So you can imagine my delight during a screening of Spider-Man: Far From Home when my subconscious kept reminding me of another movie in which a high-school-aged twink spends a pivotal summer vacation in northern Italy, where he forms a complicated bond with a handsome older man. Yes, it’s time to pose the question I thought I would never have to ask: Is Far From Home just Call Me By Your Name for people who can’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce “Guadagnino”?
I have already introduced the matter in another post, but let us start by running down the uncanny similarities. Both Call Me By Your Name and the first half of Spider-Man: Far From Home take place in Italy, specifically the northern region that once made up the 19th-century Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia. Much as it was for Diane Lane in 2003, the sun-dappled Italian setting proves personally transformative for the films’ American protagonists, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker and Timothée Chalamet’s Elio Perlman. (Perlman is canonically Jewish, Parker only apocryphally.) There, each teen’s school holiday is transformed thanks to an encounter with an older visitor, who is played by an actor who romanced Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals, and whose tan, tall, and muscled form makes a marked contrast with our pale, petite hero. And if you think our two boyishly smooth-chested leads have their own strong resemblance, then well, you’re thinking like a Hollywood casting director: Alongside Holland, Chalamet was one of the five finalists for the Spider-Man role back in 2015.
The plots of each film mirror each other as well. The youth is introduced to the older male by a trusted authority figure, who is working closely with the man. He is initially wary of the interloper, as he suspects the disruption the man represents will ruin his summer fun. He tries to keep his distance, and instead attempts a romantic relationship with a girl closer to his own age, whom he keeps in the dark about aspects of his true identity. However, the boy and the man slowly become close as well, thanks in part to a series of water-based adventures, and they have a night out soundtracked by a 1982 single by a British New Wave band.
The pair’s emotional bond climaxes as the lad shoots a sticky white liquid from his body onto a colorful round object, after which they become intimate partners. The youngster enters a new state of vulnerability, and gives a part of himself to his new friend. The man appears to cherish it, but eventually turns out to have his own separate plan for the future, one which does not include the boy. Heartbroken, the adolescent vows to learn from his grief, but despite a third-act reckoning with the girl, a surprise near the credits reveals the older man still has ways to wound.
Despite all these similarities, I do not want to leave you with the impression the two movies are identical. Of course there are some differences. To take just one example, in the cinematic universe of Call Me By Your Name, Michael Stuhlbarg is a supportive father, while in the cinematic universe to which Far From Home belongs, Stuhlbarg is an obnoxious surgeon who was once a professional rival of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange.
I also do not mean to suggest that these similarities are in any way intentional. Rather, it turns out the hero’s journey is a mutable framework capable of encompassing both European art films and frivolous blockbusters alike. The Italian government’s generous 30 percent tax credit may have something to do with it, as well.
However, I suspect there was a degree of intentionality in one aspect — the Far From Home promotional tour, which took to pairing Tom Holland and Jake Gyllenhaal in much the same manner as Call Me By Your Name’s Oscar campaign did Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. When you’re trying to launch a young male star, there’s nothing that pricks up your target audience’s ears like presenting him alongside an actor who’s older, more established, and lightly scruff’d. Yes, I think that otter do it.