Italian preiod drama L’Immensita serves as a diptych as it studies two characters. Its first protagonist is Andrew (Luana Guliani) who is AFAB. He knows he is a boy and looking for signs in the world to prove that or to change him. Living in Rome during the 1970s means that he has extended family who deadnames him. And it’s up to the viewer to decide the intent of these people. His closer family isn’t so great neither. He and his siblings eventually realize just how abusive their father Felice (Vincenzo Amato) is. When he’s not gaslighting his children, he does the same to the film’s second protagonist, Andrew’s mother Clara (Penelope Cruz). Andrew notices Felice’s jelaousy when Clara gets attention from other men, but he also cheats on her.
Just in case any of my few readers are pedants, I know that there is another word for ‘second protagonist’. I call both of them protagonists because there are ways to argue for either character as the central one. On one hand, this is Andrew’s movie because Andrew is a stand-in for trans director and co-writer Emanuele Crialese. But on the other hand, it’s a great showcase for Cruz’s talents. As Clara, she’s the kind of mother who prefers to play with her children instead of raise them. This is something that everybody eventually notices. The drama, however, doesn’t treat this as a character flaw. And both Crialese work to get the viewers on her side.
Cruz’ efforts in L’Immensita equals her work with her frequent collaborator Pedro Almodovar. It’s good for for the to give Clara a lot of complexity but that occassionally overshadows Andrew’s story in all of this altough in fairness, there are a few coming of age stories, especially ones involving trans youth, that will make sympathetic viewers happy. This is specially true here because the film has a cis woman playing the role of a trans man. Another of the film’s big flaws is that even if this is semi-autobigraphical, the characters and their relationships feel archetypal. For example, there’s Clara invoking Freudian feelinngs from two of her children.
Also, I’m not asking for the L’Immensita to make Felice more symathetic as much as I am asking for a bit of nuance from him. The film does gain its sense of individuality, strangely enough, when it expands through other characters. Close to their home is an encampment of racialized people whom Clara’s family assume are Romani, the people who recognize Andrew for who he is. Conversely, there are the mansions that serve as Andrew’s occasional holiday playgrounds, one of the places where he and Clara live out complex lives that can be both stifling yet bittersweet.
Watch L’Immensita at a Canadian theatre near you.
- Rated: PG
- Genre: Drama
- Release Date: 5/26/2023
- Directed by: Emanuele Crialese
- Starring: Luana Giuliani, Penélope Cruz, Vincenzo Amato
- Produced by: Dimitri Rassam, Lorenzo Gangarossa, Mario Gianani
- Written by: Emanuele Crialese, Francesca Manieri, Vittorio Moroni
- Studio: France 3, Pathé, Regione Toscana, Toscana Film Commission