L’immensità (2022)

L’immensità opens with a boy drawing wires across the rooftop of his home. He connects them to an antennae, opens his palms, looks up to the open skies, and calls out for a sign.

This is a film whose characters are seeking out for connection and happiness beyond their day-to-day world. Andrea (Luana Giuliani) is a young teenager, who’s settling into his identity – a chosen name, short hair, and wearing pants instead of a skirt – which goes unacknowledged by his family, who still calls him Adri (Adriana).

He’s able to reclaim his true self across the street, at a commune of migrant workers, including a girl Sara. Here he can introduce himself, on his terms, and isn’t confined by his family’s expectations of who he is. He’s empowered in a space where he can start from scratch, versus his regular, already-established life: in school, where boys & girls are divided, and he’s in a girl’s uniform; and with his family, where his family repeatedly misgenders him, still using his birth name Adriana.

Andrea’s mother Clara (Penélope Cruz) also experiences outsider dynamics in her own way. A Spanish immigrant to Italy, she is a transplant to another country, and the odd one out within social settings, as the in-law at family functions with her husband’s side, who all live a drive away. Even her married life is not a happy one, and the only real lever she can pull, and greatest imprint she can make, is through her children.

From the perspective of Andrea, Clara is the parent who brings music and vitality into the children’s lives. One of the first scenes has Clara turning on the record player and leading the kids to dance around the kitchen, inspiring in Andrea even more grandiose, fantastical musical moments with his mother. Clara’s childlike qualities also extend beyond the home, challenging Andrea to a race down a crowded Roman street, and escaping monotonous small talk at a Christmas party by slipping down under the table to play with the kids.

On the opposite end, the family father Felice has a much smaller impact, inspiring no memories or moments of joy with the kids. When he is out of the house, his absence is not felt by his children. He has no patience for imagination, snapping at the youngest daughter when she plays with her food.

Both facing difficulties – Andrea with his identity and Clara in her marriage – Andrea’s imagination inserts the two into musical fantasy sequences. While cinematically dazzling, with meticulous period recreations of 1970s-era performances, these moments are jarring and tonal high-point spikes in a mostly low-key film. This could reflect the numbing monotony draining their day-to-day lives, with only these heightened fantasies to shine through, to bring life and vivacity into an otherwise dull, often disappointing existence.

As tender and believable the core mother-son relationship is, something about the film doesn’t quite hit the mark. The fantasy sequences transform Clara into an icon: a stylish, energetic pop singer, elevating her in the eyes of her oldest child. It’s in these imagined spaces where the two are their fullest, brightest selves, distinct from the reality where they go unacknowledged and not truly seen. It adds up thematically, but in execution, seeing Penélope Cruz in a wig dancing around with a teenager, feels one level too goofy and these moments veer closer to cringey rather than joyous.

Director Emanuele Crialese has said the film reflects being a child, where your whole world is through your parents. At a time when Andrea is finding his true self, Clara is who brings the music, and spark, to Andrea and his siblings; she looms as a mother, icon, and figure of comfort during a challenging coming-of-age period. The transgender experience is not often told on film, least of all with this level of nuance and care.

L’immensità was a nominee at the 2023 David di Donatello awards and is an official selection of the 49th Seattle International Film Festival! Explore more info at siff.net/festival. @SIFFnews #SIFF2023





One response to “L’immensità (2022)”

  1. […] L’immensita’ (Emanuele Crialese, Francesca Manieri & Vittorio Moroni) […]

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