Penélope Cruz delivers retro-glamour in this gorgeous 70-set Italian melodrama, starring as a wife in a failing marriage and the mother of three children, the eldest of which is questioning their sexual identity.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
A riveting Penélope Cruz (Broken Embraces, NZIFF 2009) copes with a disintegrating, loveless marriage and the shifting gender identity of one her three children, in this evocative family drama set in a sun-drenched 1970s Rome summer, and to the rhythms of Italian pop tunes.
Clara, a Spanish expat, suffers in her upper-class marriage to Felice, who cheats on and abuses her, but refuses to divorce. Despite the burdens of this dead-end situation, her exuberant personality occasionally finds release in games and escapades with her three young children. Twelve-year-old Adriana (a stunning turn from newcomer Luana Giuliani), the oldest, pictures Clara as a goddess on par with Sophia Loren—projecting both mother and child into fantasy musical sequences. Her mother’s wellbeing isn’t Adriana’s only concern; identifying as a boy, Adri changes her name to Andrea and begins to increasingly assert his trans state, to his father’s disapproval, and the incomprehension of his siblings and society at large. Straying through the tall reeds nearby the family’s affluent home, to a shantytown of makeshift lodgings, Andrea encounters teenage Sara and experiences his first crush, and outsider mother and child bond with more intensity.
Drawing from autobiographical elements, director Emanuele Crialese (Respiro, NZIFF 2003, Golden Door, NZIFF 2007) delivers another indelible portrait of a mother at odds with the rules and expectations of a world that societal norms force her to inhabit. Cruz is gorgeous, but the film also fully belongs to Luana Giuliani depicting Andrea’s journey, inviting us to accept the fantastical and the ordinary in equal measure. — Sandra Reid
“A wonderfully realized portrait of the alienation experienced by both a mother and her child, Italian filmmaker Emanuele Crialese’s brilliantly colorful and touching L’immensità revels in the weight that all of the smallest things in the world can hold.” — Sarah Williams, In Review Online