Review: I Am Love
Unsurprisingly, I Am Love’s score on IMDb ranks at 6.9 (contrasting with its 79 Metacritic score) indicating users had a tougher time grappling with the film than critics did, a response that’s expected with a film that appears to be so abstract and rooted in style over substance.
Peeking beneath the sumptuous style there’s a fascinating tale of an Italian family in Milan, ruled by patriarchs and involving several characters who resist what’s expected of them and journey into uncharted territory.
Tilda Swinton’s Emma Recchi (speaking in Italian) left Russia twenty years ago when proposed to by Tancredi Recchi (Pippo Delbono). Now living in a powerful family that own an industrial plant creating garments, there’s upheaval in the family when Emma has a love affair with her son’s friend (Edoardo Gabbriellini).
I Am Love’s major theme revolves around identity (the title of the film taking on a greater resonance as it goes on). Swinton’s Emma is searching for who she is, lost in a family that takes her for granted and without a purpose in her life. She’s moved to act on her own feelings when she finds out her daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher) has dumped her boyfriend and started a lesbian relationship.
Her husband neglects her and her him as they barely have a conversation with each other in the whole film resulting in a stilted, dull marriage that lacks interest from both sides. With the family’s business being sold against the wishes of son Edoardo (Flavio Parenti), director Luca Guadagnino depicts a sense of transitioning and redefining of things that once had a comfortable and definable identity.
What the film says about identity through its many through-lines I’m not completely sure, it’s a film that lingers rather than explicitly informs you of a character’s state of mind, but it does seem to be that once you’ve found ‘yourself’ (as it were) then you are in a way freed from expectation and duty; of having to perform or act to please others. Tragedy strikes but when it happens it marks the moment of no return as the family plunges into a depression and Swinton emerges with a performance that’s thoroughly watchable as she loses and finds herself in the midst of great melancholy.