I Am Love Review

(1.5 STARS)

I Am Love is a fascinating example of how a film can try to do many things and fail at pretty much all of them. It’s a film with two very different halves. The first is a well-intentioned, meandering ensemble piece. The second is a comical descent into overblown melodrama. It’s full of style, but only for style’s sake. The score is as intrusive as any I’ve ever heard. And the decent performances are ultimately rendered moot by director Luca Guadagnino’s inability to craft a compelling narrative. Maybe I just missed something (the film sits at a whopping 82% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I Am Love just didn’t do anything for me.

The film follows the Recchis, a wealthy Italian family whose patriarch, Edoardo, (Gabriele Ferzetti) owns a very successful textile company. Edoardo believes he’s not far from death, so he names his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), and grandson, Edo (Flavio Parent), his successors at a celebratory dinner. At the dinner, we are also introduced to a number of subplots, including Edo’s impending engagement to a young woman, Emma’s (Tilda Swinton) and Tancredi’s daughter’s newfound lesbianism, and Edo’s new friendship and eventual business partnership with a mild-mannered chef, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini).

The setup is long and laborious, which would’ve been acceptable if the payoff was insightful or emotionally involving. As things progress, Antonio begins an affair with Emma (which is the focus of most of the second half of the film), and the rest of the characters are essentially left hanging. By trying to cover too many distantly related storylines, Guadagnino doesn’t allow us to connect to any of them. The closest we come to caring about one is Emma and Antonio’s affair, but the film never really gives us an idea of why these two are coming together. Sure, Emma is bored, and the two share a love of cooking, but it feels like there are a few steps missing along the way to them entering this torrid relationship.

That being said, the faults of the first half pale in comparison to what happens in the final 45 minutes. Guadagnino chooses to abandon any simple emotional or intellectual investment in these characters and stories in favor of trying to tug at our heartstrings in a very unsubtle way. If things weren’t bad enough, we’re “treated” to the painfully obtrusive score by John Adams. I’m not sure whether Adams or Guadagnino should be blamed for the mess that is this film’s music, but it’s a disaster. And not just in the finale. There’s one scene just before Antonio and Emma get together that belongs in a Jason Bourne film.

The film isn’t completely without merit. Tilda Swinton gives a good performance, though it’s certainly not her best work. The film’s camerawork is pretty, as well. Both Milan and the Italian countryside prove to be very picturesque locations to film, though I thought Anton Corbijn’s The American did the same thing to greater effect earlier this year.

Ultimately, however, I Am Love is best forgotten, or better yet, ignored. Its melodramatic tendencies were way too much for me, and I consider myself someone who’s easily moved by schmaltz, but this one was just too blatant to forgive. In trying so hard to generate an emotional response, all it generated from me were cringes and groans.

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