"Call Me By Your Name" storyform analysis anyone? (SPOILERS)

I might go with using the Wikipedia plot summary. How accurate and complete is it? I could visualize a film’s scenes with it.

I haven’t seen or read the story, but I’ve been following this conversation. The part of the conversation that impacts me the most is the possibility of a well-received story using an ambiguous Good/Bad judgement, with debatable intention.

I’d like to add that having produced a number of those storyforms myself within the Dramatica program, I’ve noticed that virtually all of them that I’ve created have had different arrangements for their Variations under the PSR. Thus, from a pure logical standpoint, whether the story is Good/Bad could be left indeterminate if the subjective thematics are not explored in enough detail or in “correct” order.

Unfortunately, I’m not at home right now, otherwise I’d plug in the form given in this post and look at the PSR results for choosing Good/Bad. I wonder if there isn’t a difference at this level. Something to look at when I get home.

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Very interesting point @Hunter. Would love to hear what you find. I’ll try to take a look at that too.

I actually just got back and put the form in first thing. I don’t know whether the above storyform used a Timelock or Optionlock, so I examined all four possibilities. As it turns out, all four have the following PSR.

The “Signposts” under each throughline are the Types under which each PSR Variation quad resides.

Objective Story (Psychology seen as Universe)

  • Progress: Fact, Security, Threat, Fantasy
  • The Present: Attempt, Work, Attraction, Repulsion
  • The Past: Fate, Prediction, Interdiction, Destiny
  • The Future: Openness, Delay, Choice, Preconception

Subjective Story (Physics seen as Psychology)

  • Conceptualizing: State of Being, Situation, Circumstances, Sense of Self
  • Being: Knowledge, Ability, Desire, Thought
  • Becoming: Rationalization, Commitment, Responsibility, Obligation
  • Conceiving: Permission, Need, Expediency, Deficiency

Main Character (Universe seen as Physics)

  • Understanding: Instinct, Senses, Interpretation, Conditioning
  • Doing: Wisdom, Skill, Experience, Enlightenment
  • Obtaining: Approach, Self-Interest, Morality, Attitude
  • Learning: Prerequisites, Strategy, Analysis, Preconditions

Obstacle Character (Mind seen as Mind)

  • Memory: Truth, Evidence, Suspicion, Falsehood
  • The Preconscious: Value, Confidence, Worry, Worth
  • The Subconscious: Closure, Hope, Dream, Denial
  • The Conscious: Investigation, Appraisal, Reappraisal, Doubt

This is something I actually have not yet seen, but it is certainly an interesting result. I interpret this to mean that there are storyforms for which the meaning can only be made clear using appropriate illustrations at the element level, or by laying out the “Author’s Proof” for the judgement in a most candid way.

In regard to the current CMBYN discussion, this would mean that it is extremely likely the movie would feel ambiguous, if this is the correct storyform. That is, unless there is a scene at the end that “bops you on the nose” with the desired judgement.

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Wow! Wild discovery @Hunter . Does this happen a lot with Dramatica storyforms? If you haven’t seen the movie, when you do in the final scene (spoiler) you will see emotions played out on the actor Timothee Chalamet’s face as he processes the joy and pain in memories of it. The being with both with killing the pain, and the joy too, is the encouragement of the father and part of the thematic argument as well. You take the bad with the good and vice versa. It’s part of the take away message of this film. And there it is embedded in the structure too. Elegant in its design isn’t it?

Concerning the Good/Bad Ambiguity…
I talked about this two years ago, funnily enough. Click on this link to find out what storyform choices cause this ambiguity. It’s actually pretty simple.
That said, I think it’s possible that there are changes that we simply don’t see (like the PRCO stuff or progression stuff below the Variation level).

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I love this distinction, Bob, and how it illustrates how a storyform can be designed intentionally to have a certain effect on an audience.

Also… I did not know of your blog. But I do now: a great new Dramatica playground to spend time in.

Also… I only recently discovered your Dramatica Storyform on 1 Sheet tool and absolutely love it. Thank you for developing and sharing it.

I thought I’d add this little excerpt from and interview with Andre Acimen re: the ending scene in the movie. Loved @audz distinction about how the character’s feelings in an optionlock are that they are running out of time. This still seems antithetical to me, and it confuses me. But I love this little explanation of how one feels at the end.

Also… I want to note that the shirt Elio is wearing is a Matisse shirt patterned with sketches of faces. This movie has so many layers. Even the wardrobe helps to support story structure. The MC is the eyes through which the audience experiences the story. And here we are at the end of the movie. The MC is experiencing an emotional climax, while clothed with the faces of many, our faces perhaps, time is running out, and we all are meeting there at once in that moment. Such an elegant design vision and performance.


OKAY, so strap yourselves in, y’all.

I went to go see this movie for a second time because I wanted to check if the storyform I identified held up, and also because (I’ll admit it) this movie has been stuck in my head and is currently driving me completely insane. I can’t stop thinking about it, ranting about it, etc, only moreso now because the storyform I identified did. not. match. the movie.

It was CLOSE. The domains all lined up: MC in Universe, IC in Mind, OS in Psychology, RS in physics, as did the progressions of the OS and RS throughlines. But the progressions of the remaining throughlines did not. In the storyform I identified, the MC throughline is Present-Past-Future-Progress. The movie is clearly Present-Future-Past-Progress. Similarly, the IC throughline I identified went Memory-Preconscious-Subconscious-Conscious. The movie’s progression is Conscious-Preconscious-Subconscious-Memory.

So either the movie was deviating from the correct storyform order, or I had identified the wrong storyform. In cases such as these, I tend to presume the error is on my part. I cleared the storyform and pinned down the progressions in the order that they happen in the film. Easy peasy! However, if you lock in all of the progressions and then then try to pick Temptation and Conscience as the Problem and Solution pairing of the OS (as we did before), you will find that they are no longer available.

So fine. Let’s try Temptation and Conscience as Symptom and Response of the OS instead. That seems plausible, as the characters are talking about Temptation and Conscience throughout the film, indicating that they are aware that these issues are causing conflict in their lives. Doing so also selects Temptation and Conscience as the Symptom and Response of Elio’s throughline. This too makes sense. Elio believes the solution to his problem involves overcoming his fear to speak his mind to Oliver, just as the knight does to the lady in the fable. He so but finds his problem still unresolved.

So far, so good. Let’s lock in those benchmarks we liked; Progress for Elio instead of The Past. But wait; if we do that, now the Story Judgement is implied bad! Somehow, the judgement became linked to the other storyform choices, which would rule out that ambiguous ending that the movie clearly has. And if we look up in the corner at the MC Problem-solving style, we’ll see why: Elio is now implied to be a linear thinker.

But in the movie, he’s definitely holistic. Take the scene where Elio masturbates with the peach both to assuage his horniness AND because he misses Oliver. A linear thinker would NEVER do this. It would make no sense. A linear thinker would identify a problem (I miss Oliver) and then go find the solution (pursue Oliver). Or, (I’m horny with nobody around) and (therefore, I shall screw a peach!) But a linear thinker wouldn’t see masturbating with a peach as a way to solve both of these problems at once. Elio, however, does. He decides to masturbate with a peach as a way of bringing his desire and loneliness in check without directly having to seek out Oliver to do so. And then, When Oliver comes in and discovers what Elio has done, why would Elio stop Oliver from eating the peach if he were a linear thinker? He’d have satisfied both of the initial desires that motivated him to masturbate with the peach: he’d have won Oliver’s attention, and he’d be sexually gratified. In other words, he’d be happy as a clam. But not our Elio. He’s mortified and distraught. He tries to stop Oliver from eating the peach instead, because, ‘yes, he wants me now, but not the way I wanted him to!’ His initial purposes were met, but not the fulfillment he was chasing all along. And thus, he breaks down in tears. Conclusion? Elio= holistic thinker (go ahead, fight me on this! I thirst for battle!).

So fine. Clear the storyform again, selecting for a holistic MC, and then plug in the appropriate progressions!

Except . . . you can’t. Those progressions imply a linear MC. You cannot have those 4 throughline progressions AND a holistic MC. It’s one or the other. The movie, however, has both, implying a storyform combination not allowed by the software (or the theory).

Ergo, this movie is broken.

(More to follow, including my guess as to what the closest possible storyform actually is.)

Okay, round two.

Having concluded that the true storyform of the movie is not possible to replicate in DSE, I decided to build the approximate storyform starting with the sequences of signposts for all the throughlines as identified by the film, forgoing the Holistic MC designation. I kept the same benchmarks from the original storyform (those felt correct to me) and then worked within those parameters to approximate the same tensions as previously identified. Thus control-uncontrolled replaced conscience-temptation as Problem and Solution in the OS. This alone narrowed the field down to two potential storyforms, depending on timelock or optionlock. I picked optionlock, for reasons explored above.

This yielded the following storyform, which I believe to be correct:

Call Me By Your Name 2.dr5 (16.6 KB)

I filled in most of the story points with appropriate gists to be sure the storyform held up, and filled out some of the entries where I felt explanations for my choices were warranted.

Then to be EXTRA sure that this storyform checked out, I created a spreadsheet based off the PSR generated by this storyform and filled it out with summaries and quotes from the movie, in the appropriate order:

In conclusion, I’m pretty sure we’ve got a winner, folks.

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PART 3: Explanations and Addenda

This movie takes a storyform for a linear MC and then grafts a Holistic MC on top. This makes some of the plot sequence feel a bit weird, but has the benefit of making the ending seem ambiguous. Telling this storyform with a linear MC would generate an unequivocal failure/bad ending, which to me, does not reflect what we see onscreen. The first time I watched this movie, I left while the credits were still rolling. Doing so was a mistake, because I missed the fact that this film DOES allow Elio a moment of confrontation over what has happened to him, one that I find utterly fascinating:

Jump to around 3:20 to see for yourself what I mean. Elio is crying, like you’d expect in a failure/bad ending, but he’s also smiling, like he’s finally figured something out. Then, when his mother calls him by his own name, Elio makes direct eye contact with the camera before turning towards her. This all happens to a dying chorus of “I have loved you for the last time . . . is it a video, is it a video?”. The very last thing Elio does onscreen is break the fourth wall, providing a decisive answer to the question the voices are asking him. The romance with Oliver was like a video. It was not real; it was all in his head. Elio knows this now, and in the end, turns away from the fantasy and towards reality. This is the behavior of an MC who learned something, and who’s no longer trapped in the delusion. Thus, it’s not a straight failure/bad ending, at least not in my book.

More on why I think that ending seems ambiguous: the movie shows us a progression of events that should leave us feeling like the story ends in disaster. But by making Elio a holistic MC instead (thereby breaking the integrity of the storyform), the director/actors make room for a failure/GOOD ending. But because this GOOD judgement flies in the face of what the movie spent the last two hours preparing us for, we leave . . . not entirely knowing what to feel.

Also, the story gives its MC and IC the roles of Protagonist and Antagonist in the OS, making it much harder to distinguish the RS from the OS. Add to that the fact that we’d expect a Holistic MC who behaves the way Elio does to have a different order of signposts in his own throughline, and we’ve got a recipe for a floaty-hard to pin down film that does have a (relatively) complete storyform working underneath, albeit one that breaks a few structural eggs to make its omelette.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about THAT.

For NOW.

Wow, you’ve done a lot of work here, and there is a lot to unpack and understand. You seem so advanced in your processing of stories into storyform and can make leaps ahead into assumptions on domains, MC resolve, signposts etc. that I still struggle with. Funny, I’ve been studying this for years now and still have trouble placing domains correctly.

As the movie is washing over me, and even as this storyform banter back and forth washes over me, I’m seeing new aspects of it. For instance, I’m beginning to see Elio as the change character and am beginning to sense an argument for it. Don’t have the time to go into right now. Deadline at work. But I’d like to go take a whack at it.

Also, I wonder if we should wait until more people have seen the movie, after Juanuary 19th when it goes wide, in order to entertain the full wisdom of the community here. Plus, I find the taking each aspect one at a time, the way the analysis are done traditional done in the DUG group, may be a good way to approach and test this. This movie is multi-layered, and, as you say, it might have a broken story form. But I’m not entirely convinced. Though the broken storyform and the essential ambiguity to it might be what is causing this obsession I’m having with it. I think you are experiencing it too, as others I’ve seen react online in posts and reviews—it’s a rather extraordinary effect of the movie. Is it fall out from the storytelling, broken or otherwise? I’d like to explore. Could we explore the movie at a slower pace? Aspect by aspect? And grow some consensus? Again, this might be appropriate to do once it’s in wide release. Thoughts?

Yeah, I’m happy to wait around until more people can see the movie! And I apologize if I was jumping through things too quickly; I definitely don’t want to take away from other people’s processes of talking about the film, I just wanted to get what I thought out there so that I didn’t have to just keep it in my head, you know?

I know how that is. This movie, for some reason, creates an obsession of sorts. It’s happened to me and many others I’ve encountered online. You’ve mentioned something similar too.

I’m not criticizing your completed form. Sometimes I find it hard to understand them without going through the thought process. Somethings that may be obvious to some, in regards to Dramatica, takes me awhile to process. I guess in that respect I’m still a beginner.

From reading the Wikipedia plot summary maybe the ending gives that continuance. It seems to leave the question, is this repetition of the past, a continuation of the past, a story all into its own or maybe something else?

I remember going to the theater when I was a kid in the 50s with an uncle and cousins to see the movie The Creature of the Black Lagoon. I walked out of the theater crying and crying, feeling so sorry for the creature. I felt his story was so sad and tragic. My uncle and cousins kept looking at me like I was nuts, I guess.

For those who are interested, there is now available “for your consideration” the screenplay of CMBYN, the link is posted by la-screenwriter.com at
and the direct link is

I finally saw this beautiful film over the weekend and loved it. I know it’s been awhile since this discussion was going, but thought I should respond to the idea that the film lacks a complete storyform.

When you’re looking at a 95% critical response, chances are there is a strong storyform. I recently re-thought my analysis for The Florida Project because of its insane critical response and found a storyform that I didn’t see my first time watching it. Call Me By Your Name maintains narrative integrity throughout the entire film:

Resolve: Changed
Growth: Start
Approach: Do-er
PS-Style: Holistic
Driver: Action
Limit: Optionlock
Outcome: Success

OS Throughline: Psychology
OS Concern: Conceiving
OS Issue: Permission
OS Problem: Non-acceptance (Rejection)

This gives Elio an Issue of Attraction which speaks more to his personal issues and what he is drawn to as a young man.

Oliver’s Issue of Appraisal is captured in the film’s title and the scene where he uses that line of dialogue.

Oliver is all about inciting Reactions of some sort–everything from “later” to the massage during volleyball - his drive is to incite Reaction.

Their Relationship Story Problem is Possibility - the mere possibility/impossibility of them being together and the possibility that they’re waiting on in the beginning to see who would make the first move? That’s all Possibility

Focus on uncertainty in both MC, OS, and RS throughlines point out the am I/aren’t I/is he/isn’t he?/are they/aren’t they? dynamic.

And then the Solution of Acceptance in that AMAZING scene with Michael Stulhlbarg (father of the year) which then leads to the MC’s acceptance of himself and of accepting the pain that goes with loss–

–such a beautiful film.

Thanks for your contribution, Jim!

I like the storyform you identified. Elio as start/doer/holistic rings true, and having him as the change character makes a fair amount of sense.

Would you mind elaborating on how you see the story goal operating in the film?

Everyone and everything is out of balance in the hopes that Elio will Conceive of his true identity:

  • both parents know he’s gay, but are giving him the space to get the idea himself
  • elio announces at the table that he almost had sex with a girl - lest anyone get the idea he’s gay
  • oliver bounces back and forth not wanting Elio to get the wrong idea (since there’s no way he’s coming out)
  • dad doesn’t think mom has any idea that he himself is gay
  • the potential girlfriend wants elio to get the idea that she is his girl, but knows that’s not happening
  • several conversations about “is that what you want me to do?” in other words, are you trying to get me to conceive of doing something I’m not ready to do

Those are all instances of Conceiving as a Concern - but the central Goal, unspoken but a point of resolution for everyone, would be Elio getting the idea that it’s OK. Dad’s speech at the end helps make this an acceptable idea.