Movie review: ‘I Am Love’ revisits Hollywood melodrama with lavish, old-world style
There’s such a tactile richness of detail and extravagant emotional lushness to director Luca Guadagnino’s modern melodrama “I Am Love” that it’s easy to overlook the austere spareness of the story.
It’s in the lavish layering-on of exquisite detail from the privileged, old-world lives of its characters and in the perfectly modulated performances of the cast (especially the masterly Tilda Swinton) that the film achieves its baroque, operatic allure.
At its heart, “I Am Love” (in Italian with subtitles) is an artfully sensuous, leisurely effort to revisit the aching melodrama that so marked the works of Douglas Sirk (“All That Heaven Allows”) and gave his tortured heroines such potently ironic dilemmas.
On the surface, the dilemma of Swinton’s Emma Ricchi, beautiful matriarch of a wealthy Milan clan, seems pretty straight forward. On one hand, she’s comfortably ensconced in a life that revolves around family, a stately villa, elaborate dinner parties and the family’s textile business. The strictures of her passionless, slightly boring world are embodied by her straight-laced, conscientious son, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), who is poised to assume partial control of the business.
On the other hand, Emma’s rigidly conservative world is shaken when she encounters Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a gifted, handsome but humble young chef who hopes to open a restaurant with Emma’s grandson Edoardo (Flavio Parenti). Edo’s breaking away from family ties, along with her daughter Elisabetta’s (Alba Rohrwacher) coming out as a lesbian, embody a forbidden sense of freedom and sensuality that stir long repressed desires within Emma.
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