Set in 1970s Rome, Emanuele Crialese’s L’Immensitá is a family drama that focuses on mother of three, Clara (who’s played flawlessly by Penélope Cruz), and her eldest child, Adri (Luana Giuliani). Adri is experiencing gender dysphoria. She keeps her hair short, wears boy’s clothes and likes to go by the name Andrea (the Italian equivalent of Andrew). Their younger brother and domineering father (Vincenzo Amato) have grown tired of them “pretending”, and the only place where they can be themselves is with a girl who lives in a temporary camp situated just outside their neighbourhood. Meanwhile, Clara is struggling to cope with the knowledge that her husband has been cheating on her with his secretary.
Carried by exquisite performances from both Giuliani and Cruz, Crialese’s film is a beautifully tender but flawed exploration of two generations of the same family searching for happiness. At its best, the flick captures both the joyous, carefree spirit of its leading characters alongside the anguish and frustration they’re subjected to. The infectious glee of Clara and her children setting the dinner table while dancing is contrasted with the tense meal that follows when the patriarch arrives. However, the wondrous sense of escapism is best captured through fantastical musical numbers occurring in Adri’s imagination. Executed with bundles of style and energy, it’s only unfortunate that the filmmaker didn’t make more use of these sequences throughout the feature.
For all its strengths, the script isn’t quite able to fully tie both characters’ experiences together into a singular vision. Adri and Clara’s arcs are well suited as the focus of their own film, one being a coming-of-age trans story, the other a woman struggling with a difficult realisation. Aside from the characters being part of the same family, there’s not much about their plotlines that connect thematically. This issue is further amplified towards the conclusion in which a series of hastily constructed scenes speed the final 20 minutes towards the end credits.
Despite the sensational turns from the leads, the absence of thematic tissue, in addition to the rushed and disjointed finale, culminates in a disappointing viewing experience that could have been so much more.
L’Immensitá is released in select cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema on 11th August 2023.
Watch the trailer for L’Immensitá here: