Is Call Me by Your Name Based on a True Story?

Helmed by Luca Guadagnino, ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is a 2017 coming-of-age romantic drama movie set in the summer of 1983. Elio, a 17 year-old boy, lives in northern Italy and spends his holidays reading, practicing the piano, and having fun with friends. However, his carefree life soon changes with the arrival of Oliver, his father’s charming graduate student from America, who comes to work on his archaeology thesis during the summer vacation. Soon Elio is drawn toward Oliver and confronted with feelings they’ve never experienced before.

The Academy Award-winning LGBTQ+ romance is sensitively dealt with topics like first love and heartbreak. Starring Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as the protagonist duo, the movie further comes to life with their nuanced performances. All this makes one wonder whether ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is rooted in reality or is a work of fiction. If this is a question that haunts you, we can help quell it!

Is Call me by Your Name a True Story or a Fiction?

No, ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is not based on a true story. It is an adaptation of author André Aciman’s eponymous 2007 novel, which has received both critical acclaim and widespread admiration from readers worldwide. James Ivory wrote the screenplay, which Luca Guadagnino adapted to the big screen. Although a product of Aciman’s imagination, the story does draw inspiration from his own childhood days growing up in Egypt and Italy.

Image credit: Sayombhu Mukdeeprom/Sony Pictures Classics

In a January 2021 piece in The Guardian, the author shared how he came up with the novel’s idea. Aciman said that while working on another novel, he suddenly envisioned a seaside Italian villa he had drawn from Claude Monet’s painting. This is when Aciman began to play with the idea, using random scribbles as a distraction from the actual project. Surprisingly, he soon found himself in love with Oliver and Elio.

While writing, Aciman subconsciously kept revisiting his family’s beach home in Egypt as well as his vacation experiences in Tuscany. “Without an Egypt transposed onto the Italian shore, none of ‘Call Me by Your Name’ would have been possible. The pages I was writing were letting me take my family’s beach home in Egypt, and everyone in it, to Italy. My parents, who were difficult, were also shipped to Italy. My late adolescence, which bristled with so many unfulfilled desires, also landed on the Italian shore,” he added.

Luca Guadagnino resonated with Aciman’s words and divulged in a December 2017 interview with the same publication that Elio’s character takes him back to his teenage years. He elaborated, “I was two years younger than Elio is in the book [the film is based on]. However, I still remember my childhood and adolescence vividly. I can recall how I was already beginning to be a director by sitting at the far end a room watching people dance at parties. I was reading books, imagining stories, and was beginning to be aware of my sexuality. I didn’t dare speak, but Elio did. [up about it].”

Highlighting the story’s central message, Guadagnino said, This is a movie about a family, compassion, transmission of knowledge, of being better people because someone’s otherness changes you… ‘Call Me By Your Name’ encompasses what I’ve found striking about life: that you can be a better person, and you can build a bridge to go and meet new people instead of confining yourself within your own boundaries.”

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Through the lens of Elio and Oliver’s summer romance that is tinted by an 80s nostalgia and a philosophical undercurrent, the book and the movie depict the confusion and amazement that accompany the first brush with love at a young age, along with realizations about intimacy and sexuality. Moreover, the story chronicles the various stages of these experiences, from curiosity, denial, acceptance, and often, heartbreak and moving on, that help shape a young individual’s views on relationships.

Young Elio is reminded of his teenage years as he struggles to reconcile his feelings and desires with his older lover. Similarly, when the pair’s short-lived summer romance ends and leaves the 17-year-old devastated, viewers reminisce about their own reactions to such situations and empathize with the character.

Not just that, Eliot’s meaningful conversation with his father towards the end underlines the importance of feeling and self-acceptance, leaving behind a powerful message in the audience’s minds. Thus, even though ‘Call Me by Your Name’ is not based on actual people or incidents, it is a poetic yet realistic ode to the glorious confusion of first love and what it truly means to grow up.

Read more: Call me By Your Name Review: A Brilliant and Daring Film

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