I have been hiding in a box, trying to ignore the crappy, tragic mess of production that gets farted out daily. If you too are bored by predictable, trite and dull cinema as I have been recently you will love this cinematic Italian family drama. Sure you will have to read some subtitles, but Christ, people can still read can’t they? I Am Love begins at the house of the Recchi’s, an important wealthy Milanese family, in which we discover Russian-born Emma, has married into. She plays the stylish, cold, intelligent housewife to her detached and distant husband Tancredi, who is always working away. The extravagant parties she throws leave her as a bystander, and she departs early or finds ways to slink off alone. That is until she meets her son Edo’s friend and business partner Antonio, a young and brilliant chef. In one of the most engaging and heady scenes Emma is taken to Antonio’s restaurant with her mother and law and ‘soon-to-be’ daughter in law. In a spectacular scene, Emma eats a dish Antonio has made, and it’s exciting, lush and incredibly sensual. She is engaged in an illicit affair with a prawn dish, while her mother and daughter in law discuss bland formalities. This obviously leads on to a deep, intense full blown physical affair. With Antonio, not the prawn.
Everything seems to change for Emma when she discovers her daughter Betta is not only gay, but also in a happy relationship. She lovingly accepts and sympathises with her grown children. There is a beautiful scene when Betta gives her grandfather a new piece of art she has done, (usually in the form of painting or drawing), only this time it’s a photograph, of which he doesn’t really enjoy or understand. Emma soothes and reassures Betta, they are affectionate and intimate, and it’s then Betta confides in her mother, requesting she doesn’t tell her father or grandfather, as they wouldn’t understand. Later Edo realises that his mother has been unfaithful to his father, and in turn, him and takes it a bit too far outside by the pool. The following events show Emma being released from her wealthy, respectable cage to the freedom she’s always given her children, in a touching and pulse racing crescendo. John Adams masterfully showers the film in a strange, operatic and eerie soundtrack, which perfectly complements the style of the film.
I Am Love is simple and elegant, rich and powerful but equally beautiful and delicate. It’s an incredibly arresting and almost theatrical portrayal of love, family, passion and the cocoon that wealth and desire bring. The story, technique and style are pleasing to watch, but it’s the acting and soundtrack that keep you drawn in throughout. Admittedly, if you’re not really in the right frame of mind for this it will appear trivial and maybe just too visually over-the-top. But even if this is the case, the luscious and picturesque surroundings, phenomenally stylised outfits (Jil Sander and Fendi), will not only make you want to go to Milan, but will leave you feeling lustful and cultured, even if you really, really hated reading the subtitles.