I Am Love
I was initially drawn to I Am Love for two reasons. One: The overbearing score in the trailer, and two, the almost ubiquitous acclaim received by all the critics I respect. The New York Times has already made it a Critic’s Pick for goodness sakes. I was not disappointed, everything they said was true.
The is as lavish and luxurious as most anything I’ve ever seen. The story follows a young Russian matriarch named Emma (Tilda Swinton), who marries into an extremely rich Italian family, surnamed Ricchi. The film begins with the birthday party of Emma’s father-in-law Eduardo Sr., the owner and CEO of the Recchi family business. He announces his retirement and leaves the family business to Emma’s husband Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), and Tancredi’s son, Eduardo Jr. (Flavio Parenti). The announcement is shocking, but being a polite, emotionally veiled family, no one questions the decision.
After this party, the film moves forward a few months. Eduardo Sr. has died, and at first, it’s slightly mystifying why director Luca Guadagnino (who write the screenplay as well), chose to gloss over such a major event in the family. It becomes clear however, that Guadagnino wanted to save most of his screen time for Ms. Swinton. I’ve never been a huge fan of hers, but after this breathtaking performance, I’ve been won over. There’s no question about her talent now. She even managed, somehow, to look less androgynous, and become a pillar of femininity.
It becomes apparent that Eduardo Sr.’s death serves as an unspoken permission to deviate from the ordinary. Tancredi seems very interested in selling off the family business, a business he promised not to sell a few months earlier. Emma’s daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) breaks up with her boyfriend because she has fallen in love with a woman (although the reason isn’t made known to the other characters until later in the film). Emma allows herself to stray beyond the marriage, and begin an affair with Eduador Jr.’s friend, and talented chef, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini). Antonio’s talents in the kitchen bring Emma to an almost orgasmic state, where everything else in the restaurant goes dark, allowing for an intensely private and passionate moment between her and her meal. Yes, things are changing for the Recchis.
Guadagnino has a career of directing films and operas about the Italian aristocracy. And like Claude Chabrol of France, he seems to have found himself a genre where no one could ever replace him. John Adams’ particularly beautiful and soaring score provides a rather perfect soundtrack to this strange and beautiful life lead by Emma and her family. A satisfying metaphor of all the emotion just beneath the surface, aching to be set free.