I Am Overdoing It
I'm not usually one to react poorly to over-the-top or showy presentations, but sometimes, as with I Am Love, this approach doesn't work for me. Director Luca Guadagnino uses ravishing photography to tell the story of Emma (Tilda Swinton), a Russian-born wife to the husband of a rich Italian family in Milan. As she discovers herself drawn to a new passion -- Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a chef friend of her eldest son -- her experiences are underlined with quick cuts to momentary memory flashbacks or shots of nature, and a swelling score by John Adams. At other moments, the camera swoops, shoots from odd angles, takes in various bits of scenery. It's very busy -- I might call it "fussy."
This is a tricky stylistic decision to employ because it has so much potential for backfiring, but when it's clicking it can express the highs and lows of emotions like nothing else. And I have no doubt that Guadagnino's film will work exactly that way for many viewers, yet for me the obvious attempts at enhancing lushness, rapture, and emotional swings were not connecting. I couldn't help noticing it was trying too hard.
The difference, for me, must simply be coming from the subject matter. This is a movie about a woman trapped in a privileged world -- hardly terrible, but understandably stifling -- who finds herself on the path to infidelity when she falls hard for a handsome young man. To be honest, I don't respond well to stories where people can't control themselves when they fall seriously in love on surface instincts. Although this undeniably happens in life, it's maddening and inexplicable, and thus its expression in storytelling often feels arbitrary. Such is the case here, in I Am Love -- Emma is struck after a trivial introduction to Antonio, simply, plainly, utterly. And I just can't care.
Dressing up the story with conscientiously beautiful shots of art, architecture, and nature just exacerbates the experience for me. We don't get to know the characters any better in the meantime, and then the movie, already glossily melodramatic, takes a silly plunge with an overblown ending. And yet I don't think I Am Love is a bad film -- it exhibits visual skill, it boasts a strong performance from Swinton, and it should have a place with romantics who aren't as picky as I am about where one's heart wanders to and why.
(Released by Magnolia Pictures and rated "R" for sexuality and nudity.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.