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The Independent Critic

Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Pippo Delbono, Edoardo Gabbriellini
Luca Guadagnino
Rated R
120 Mins.
Magnolia Pictures

 "I Am Love" Review 
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As much cinematic opera as it is anything resembling traditional cinema, I Am Love is a masterful yet erratic feast of melodrama and sensory immersion that pairs Scottish actress Tilda Swinton and Italian writer/director Luca Guadagnino in a story that somehow winds its way through such universal themes as nationalist pride and cultural identity while remaining firmly planted in tremendous intimacy and family drama.

A Scottish actress, with a pronounced accent, speaking Italian with a Russian accent?

Indeed. In a performance that may very well be the defining performance of her career, Tilda Swinton transcends the spoken word by embodying Emma Recchi, the matriarch of a wealthy Italian family, a demure woman who is a woman of composed discipline and unspoken passions. This is the sort of rile that Meryl Streep has built a career around, and it is most assuredly a career highlight for Swinton.

While I Am Love is never quite as brilliant as is Swinton's performance, the film succeeds on the the power of its visual imagery and its artistic framework. At times evoking the later work of Ken Russell, I Am Love falters modestly in terms of story and dialogue yet is so enchantingly constructed that those who can appreciate the artistic imagery of opera and the ways in which the surrounding world always seem to respond to the story that is unfolding.

The Recchi family is a powerful family, and the film centers around the unexpected decision by Eduardo Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) to hand over control of the family's industrial giant to both his son, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono), and one of Tancredi's sons, Edo (Flavio Parenti), a young man who more desires to break away from the family business to start a restaurant. Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher), the daughter of Emma and Tancredi, has declared herself a lesbian, yet another unheard of detour from the traditional values that have long ruled the Recchi family yet one that intrigues her fidgety, increasingly curious mother.

The story unfolds during a time in history in which nationalist pride and family continuity are starting to become secondary to more individualist pursuits and, yes, true happiness that can conflict with family continuity.

Into this entire mix, Emma will find herself captivated with Antonio (Edoardo Gabriellinni), and the passion that has long been muted in expression within her world will begin to surface.

Virtually every aspect of I Am Love screams out with a sense of larger than life melodrama that works mostly because of Swinton's absolutely committed performance that is hypnotic during the film's high points and remains watchable even when the dialogue itself suffers.

If I Am Love sounds like a film that you would appreciate, then it is most assuredly recommended that you experience the film on the big screen during its arthouse run across the country. With an extreme devotion to imagery and opulence, I Am Love will be most appreciated on a wider, more vibrant screen that captures the wonder of York Le Saux's cinematography and a marvelous original score by John Adams that soars right alongside the imagery.

By no means a film that will appeal to everyone, I Am Love is a must see for fans of Tilda Swinton and will be embraced wholeheartedly by those with fond memories of Douglas Sirk cinema and an appreciation for films that emphasize a sensory experience over a more traditional, plot-driven cinematic one. I Am Love contains Italian, Russian and English language with subtitles throughout. Released by Magnolia Pictures, I Am Love will likely be seen in the majority of Landmark Theatres outlets along with select indie arthouses.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic