Review: I AM LOVE
The bold and intense Italian melodrama I AM LOVE tells of the lives, loves, and tragedies of the Recchi family, an uber-wealthy clan in contemporary Milan. It’s a gorgeously costumed and stylish soap opera way too overwrought in its drama for mainstream audiences but it does contain some dizzying photography, daring stylistic choices by director Luca Guadagnino, and an outstanding central performance by Tilda Swinton. Most of the action of I AM LOVE takes place in the Recchi mansion, an overly ornate marble-and-stone palace where, despite the films flaws, adventurous filmgoers and arthouse snobs may just enjoy spending two hours.
I AM LOVE opens with a grand dinner party celebrating the retirement of textile magnate, Edoardo Recchi (Gabriele Ferzetti) and his decision to turn the family business over to his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and grandson Edo (Flavio Parenti). With her husband and son now busy with the operations of the company and her only daughter, Betta (Alba Rohrwacher) away at school, Tancredi’s wife, Emma (Tilda Swinton) finds herself faced with the loneliness and boredom of her increasingly abandoned household. At one point Emma tries to engage her maid in a conversation but is interrupted by the servant and reminded of their class difference. Emma takes a vacation through the Italian countryside to view Betta’s photography exhibit. Inspired by her daughter’s lesbian awakening, Emma finds her own new freedoms and begins a passionate affair with a cook (Edoardo Gabbriellini) who is a friend of her son, which turns the lives of the Recchi clan upside down.
The plot of I AM LOVE, with its themes of forbidden love, is as shallow as a romance novel but it’s all presented with such over-the-top style and passion that it’s impossible not to admire (you gotta applaud the nerve of a director who cuts to a shot of bees pollinating plants during a sex scene). It’s accompanied by a frenzied, swollen, emotion-emphasizing score by John Adams that initially seems intrusive, but by the time I AM LOVE reaches its crushing conclusion, it’s the music that has become one of the films most memorable elements. Tilda Swinton, a British actress here playing the Russian-born wife of an Italian aristocrat gives us yet another fascinating character and, with her white skin and bright red hair, she has never looked sexier. Come to think of it, she has never looked sexy period, but in I AM LOVE she sheds the androgyny that audiences associate her with and her Emma is womanly and beautiful. I AM LOVE may not be for everyone but it’s unlike anything currently out there.