Have you ever had a gift that was perfect in every way? One that showed considerable thought, yet the only thing you can muster is a wan smile? You feel rotten. You don’t deserve it. A much more appreciative audience deserves it. This is what watching I am Love made me feel like. I felt I had been spoiled and I didn’t deserve it. A smarter audience would appreciate it. The critical praise from the festival circuit proved it.
Modern day Milan and the Recchi family gather to for a party organised by daughter in law, Emma to celebrate the birthday of grandfather and industrialist Edoardo Sr. He announces he is to hand over his textiles factory to his son Tancredi and grandson Edo (Flavio Parenti). Edo’s sporting rival/friend Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini) a chef, delivers a cake and meets Edo’s Russian mother Emma (Tilda Swinton). Over the course of the year both mother and son come increasingly into the orbit of Antonio, discovering emotions and raising tensions whilst other family members deal with their personal lives.
The film starts with a startling image of snowy Milan. Not the sun-drenched Italy we expect but snow suggesting frozen emotions and Russia. So Tilda is the focus and the changing of the seasons matches the emotions which end in amorous rapture. Fine. A trite summation perhaps but the visuals continue to startle and impress.
This film details all of the beauty, culture, decadence and exquisite style that upper-class Europe can offer. The camera always manages to loftily capture the opulence – expensive art work, stylish, well-tailored clothes, glamorous parties and elegant architecture. It only squeezes in on the characters as they go through intense emotions and personal pleasure – the most striking sees Tilda Swinton enjoy a dish made by Antonio.
Speaking of Tilda Swinton, she is probably one of, if not, the best actress of our generation and she is the best thing in this. Her performance is brilliant as she ranges from classy, graceful, restrained paragon of motherhood moulded by other family members back to rediscovering passion, tragedy and defiance whilst speaking Italian and Russian. Her face is a mask that perfectly expresses every emotion one could feel.
If there is one slip of class it is the awkward love making scenes that are cross-cut with flowers blooming and insects going about their business, making the film descend into cliché.
The score, cherry picking John Adams works, is another of the highlights of this film as it surges along like the undercurrents of emotion before bursting at the right times.
Critics have focussed on the cinematic antecedents of this film, what it reminds them of. Choices range from past Italian films to Hitchcock. What I got was an experience that was good looking and while I could admire its beauty it just never grabbed me like Kick Ass did. Perhaps I should stick to Tarantino so I’ll appreciate the references.