‘L’immensità’ review: A solid performance from Penélope Cruz doesn’t save Emanuele Crialese’s broadly drawn family drama [C+] | Venice Film Festival
Filmmakers often use cinema to tell personal stories, sometimes stories straight from their own childhood. Recently we’ve seen Alfonso Cuarón, Paolo Sorrentino, Kenneth Branagh, Steven Spielberg tackle such themes, and Italian director Emanuele Crialese follows suit with his new film L’immensità, having its world premiere at the 2022 Venice Film Festival.
We’re in Rome in the 1970s. The Borghetti family has just moved to a new apartment, but that restart doesn’t seem to have rekindled the love that once was between Felice and Clara. The attention of both is for their three children: Felice is the more authoritarian of the two, with his menacing silences and his intimidating demeanor; Clara is loving, warm and playful. The children can’t escape the tensions of their parents’ marriage, especially Adriana, the eldest child, who doubts her gender identity and seeks, or better, demands to be heard in her tumultuous entry into her teenage years. She escapes her inner storm finding solace in the relationship with her mother and in the loving friendship with Anna, a young girl who lives nearby. The fragile balance of the family starts to crumble during the summer that changes everything.
Crialese’s project about reminiscing his own childhood while at the same time pointing out the social, urban shifts of the city of Rome in a topical moment of the last century is certainly ambitious, and considering his artistic sensibility, it was worth the attempt. Did he succeed? Only partly so. While there is a certain allure to Crialese’s direction, poetic and even breezy at times, L’immensità often feels like it’s painted in too broad strokes, with a lack of focus that mars the overall atmosphere of the film. For such a personal story, it is also surprisingly vague and bland, it doesn’t stand out and it feels like the director is exceeding his grasp, mimicking Pedro Almodóvar’s style without fully understanding it.
The writing is its biggest flaw: few characters seem three-dimensional, and some of the dialog is clunky and frankly unbelievable. One of the worthiest aspects of the film is the performance given by Luana Giuliani as Adriana/Andrea, who never falters in a very difficult and tricky role: she’s a perfect counterpart to Penélope Cruz, who gives a solid, if slightly underwhelming performance as his/her mother Clara. Their relationship is the most interesting part of the film, it’s just a shame that the world around them is not compelling enough.
This review is from the 2022 Venice Film Festival.