Lessons Learned from Reading CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

The Academy-Award Winning feature film Call Me By Your Name has a slow and steady build, allowing time for realistic interactions between characters. Call Me By Your Name is a love story set in Italy in 1983. Between two men. A summer love.

As mentioned in my previous post, Call Me By Your Name is an excellent example of a film that works without voice-overs and the character’s inner thoughts are wisely portrayed visually. However, voice-overs were written into early drafts of the screenplay and later removed. Both would have worked but the choice to abstain from the use of voice-over in this particular screenplay was a bold one that paid off.

The screenplay’s novel roots are evident in how the screenplay is composed. Descriptions of tender moments are written with a poetic edge and contain layers of subtext, perfectly capturing the feelings of first love. For example:


ELIO and OLIVER enter their hotel bedroom in Bergamo. They look around and laugh, for no apparent reason.

It is these sort of “laugh for no apparent reason” moments that make the Call Me By Your Name screenplay so special. By utilizing the quirkiness of human behavior in minimal, appropriate ways, the story is told organically and authentically.

Another unique aspect of Call Me By Your Name is that the dialogue utilizes various languages, bouncing between English, Italian, and French, with dashes of German and Hebrew. It all somehow feels natural as if this is a world we are entering into. It is a lesson from a master to read these fascinating dialogue scenes and see them work together in a beautiful, natural, intentional way.

The Call Me By Your Name screenplay uses looks between characters to convey the unspoken, with a focus on still, small moments. James Ivory (the screenwriter) makes these moments feel big and important. Which is how life is! Especially in regards to love when everything is new and fresh. The protagonist is a teenager so this really is all new to him. Somehow along the way, his perspective becomes the audience’s window into the story and we feel what he feels. We see the confusion. We care.

Make them care. That’s the sign of a good story. And this one is crafted affectionately, with an eye for detail. I wholly enjoyed reading the Call Me By Your Name screenplay and believe it is great study for any writer out there.


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