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L’Immensità Film Review: Profoundly Moving

Emanuele Crialese’s L’Immensità is an aesthetically magnificent and profoundly moving film that explores the intricacies of human connection, self-discovery, and the search for freedom. 

In L’Immensità, Emanuele Crialese tells a delicate story of familial relationships, discrimination, and the innate yearning for freedom whilst focusing on a seemingly perfect nuclear family, but soon enough we are exposed to the cracks in their relationships. Set in 1970s Rome, the film centres around the issues one family faces when their eldest child, 12-year old Adri (Luana Giuliani), expresses the discomfort she feels within her gender identity. But when Adri begins to present as a boy, and asks her family to call her Andrea, she is dismissed and her Father refuses to acknowledge it. Each character embarks on their own journey throughout the film, allowing us to watch the breakdown of a marriage, a pre-teen’s journey of self-discovery, and how the dysfunctional environment of a broken home impacts the lives of the family’s two younger children – Diana (Maria Chiara Goretti) and Gino (Patrizio Francioni).

One thing that struck me most about this film was the strong bond between the Mother, Clara (Penélope Cruz, of Ferrari) and eldest child, Adri (Luana Giuliani). Not only do they have an immediate on-screen chemistry, they also have multiple parallels between their personalities, which are captured beautifully within the film. Adri is strong-willed, adventurous, and always unafraid to stand up to her Father in order to protect her Mother, as well as her younger siblings. It is clear to see that Adri carries some maternal features, which are contrasted by the playful, carefree ones in Clara. Their relationship is challenged by those around them, and also by Clara’s evident declining mental health, yet the two find a balance in between and become exactly what the other needs – Adri takes care of her younger siblings, whilst Clara joins the group of free-spirited children as they embark on a journey throughout the underground tunnels beneath the family home. 

L’Immensità deals with the tender subject of difficult family dynamics, transphobia, and domestic abuse within 1970s Italy, all of which place Adri, also identifying as Andrea, at the centre. Luana Giuliani delivers an exceptional performance that stayed with me for days after watching the film: it brought me joy and laughter, but it also resulted in me leaving the cinema in tears. Adri is a misunderstood preteen that is struggling with body image, gender identity, and sexuality, all of which are important to explore on screen. However, this film focuses on the extremely low points in Adri’s discovery, and how this journey impacts the family surrounding her.

Feeling abandoned and isolated from her family, Adri explains that she “comes from another Galaxy” and that she can’t be fixed – a line that stopped me in my tracks when I heard it. We see a young individual before us, in dire need of a support system that she knows she will never get, in a society too ignorant to even try to understand what it must be like to feel disconnected from the gender you were born into.

loud and clear reviews L'Immensità (Curzon) film movie 2023
L’Immensità (Curzon)

A minor fallback that I found within L’Immensità was the graphic depiction of abuse, both toward Clara and her children. Felice (Vincenzo Amato) plays the damaging gender role of a typical Italian Father in the 1970s: he goes to work, commits adultery, comes home to his wife and children and expects peace and quiet. Though of course, with three young children, this would never be the case. When youngest child Diana plays with her food – innocently imagining clouds and dinosaurs – he becomes aggressive and physically violent.

Similarly, when headstrong Adri comes to Diana’s defence, Felice slaps her across the face, and throughout the film challenges her for the way she wishes to identify herself, complaining that their friends and family think they are ‘weird’ since they have a child struggling with their gender identity. Additionally, we are held witness to an uncomfortable scene within the parents bedroom, where Adri stands up to her Father, in aid of her Mother, which results in a fight scene between Adri and Felice. It’s a scene, like many others, that could have benefited from a more delicate approach: it could have so easily just been implied, and we still could have pieced it together. 

Whilst L’Immensità is a hard watch, and we see many fights, arguments, and breakdowns within the family, Emanuele Crialese does provide some relief. At sporadic points within the narrative, the characters – Clara and her children – break out into striking song and dance sequences to Raffaella Carrà’s hit “Rumore/Si, Ci Sto”, providing the on-screen joy that is needed to balance out the heaviness.

Get it on Apple TV

L’Immensità will be released in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from 11 August, 2023. In the US, Italy, and various countries, the film is now available to watch on digital and on demand.

L’Immensità: Trailer (Curzon)
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