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aka - Io Sono L'Amore
Italy 2009
Directed by
Luca Guadagnino
120 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Emma Flanagan
3.5 stars

I Am Love

Synopsis: Too many years ago to remember, Russian-born Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton) moved to Italy with her Milanese husband, never returning to the place of her birth. She has since lived the life of the fabulously wealthy, in the apparently close-knit world of her textile-manufacturing family. But despite her haute-bourgeois lifestyle, there is something fundamental missing. When she rediscovers it, Emma unintentionally sets in motion a sequence of tragic events.

There are times with foreign language films when I wonder if something has been lost in translation, because I still can’t fathom the choice of title for this film. “I Am Love” doesn’t give any clue as to who this film is about or what is going to happen.  However, despite the mystifying title, I Am Love proves to be about the nature of love, and where you find it. It is mostly about what happens when you sacrifice your own character and your love of self to the expectations of others.  

I Am Love opens in wintry Milan, the external shots leached to black and white. The contrasting internal scenes of the patriarchal Recchi family villa are gorgeous, full of deep colour. The early scene sequence around the family dinner table is a cinematographer’s delight and the film is worth seeing for these lighting choices alone.

The dinner includes a number of small, unrelated events, which foreshadow what is to come. The Recchi family patriarch announces that the family business is being handed over to his son (Emma’s husband) and grandson Edoardo (Flavio Parenti) in joint management. Edoardo has just lost an unspecified amateur sports race, dishonourably coming second to an unknown contestant, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a chef. Emma’s artistic daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) breaks another family tradition by giving her grandfather a photo instead of a painting. The film follows the subsequent unravelling of the family and its implications for the continuation of the Recchi name and business. 

The importance of the natural sensory appetites are central to I Am Love, and both are here in abundance.  Emma finds herself attracted to Antonio, with whom Eduardo is planning to set up a restaurant. It is to be established outside the city, where Antonio grows his own produce. When Antonio shows her the area, Emma begins to see another way of living. It is here that she strips off the outer trappings of her lifestyle and rediscovers her true self. Unfortunately, she unwittingly tells her lover one thing too many of her Russian past.

Not all of I Am Love, which has a “pet project” feel about it, works. The dissipation of the family’s heritage through internationalisation doesn’t convince, nor does Eduardo’s opinion of his mother’s selling out her most intimate self. There are also a few too many tricky “I know my camera shots” moments. But the performances are generally impressive, particularly that of Swinton, whose character has several parallels with the actor’s poignant character of Elizabeth Abbott, the lost English soul from The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (2008). Rohrwacher bears an uncanny resemblance to Swinton, and their scenes together are affecting, while Swinton’s scenes with her son reveal a tempestuous side to Emma. The film’s costumes are, not surprisingly, beautifully designed (even the housekeeper is well-dressed), and the northern Italian setting is fabulous to discover.

I Am Love won’t be for anyone who likes their films fast and furious, but if you enjoy languorous European films, you may enjoy immersing yourself in Emma’s heartbreaking rediscovery of self.




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