I AM LOVE tells the story of the wealthy Recchi family, whose lives are undergoing sweeping changes. Eduardo Sr., the family patriarch, has decided to name a successor to the reins of his massive industrial company, and in so doing, surprises everyone by splitting power between his son Tancredi and grandson Edo. However, Edo dreams of opening a restaurant with his friend Antonio, a talented chef. At the heart of Tancredi's family is his wife, Emma (Tilda Swinton), a Russian immigrant who has adopted the culture of Milan. An adoring and attentive mother, Emma's existence is shocked to the core when she falls deeply in love with Antonio and pursues a passionate love affair that will change his family forever.
This movie is like eating bonbons in a hothouse. For some films, walking the fine line between sublime and silly becomes an entertainment in itself, and such is the case with I Am Love
, Luca Guadagnino's lush drama set within an Italian business dynasty in Milan. We see much of the film from the perspective of an outsider who has nevertheless fitted herself into this aristocratic world for many years: Emma, the Russian-born wife of the textile company's new CEO. She's played by Tilda Swinton, whose customarily penetrating work is enhanced by her speaking Russian and Italian (how does she do it?). The Russian heritage might be a tip-off--Emma could have a touch of Anna Karenina about her--because she embarks on a grand affair with a much younger man. The many levels of melodrama play out against gorgeous exteriors and wildly overdressed interiors, as though Guadagnino looked back through Italian film heritage and decided it was time for someone to out-do the opulent visions of Luchino Visconti. Adding to the strong flavor of high aestheticism is the soundtrack, which uses various excerpts of pieces by the great contemporary composer John Adams, to evocative effect (the opening shots of snowed-over Milan buildings are spellbinding). But let's not forget about the silly: one can concede the movie's usefulness as eye candy while noting that there is something fundamentally pretentious and overheated about it all, a designer's vision of storytelling. I Am Love
overshoots the sublime by a wide margin, but it's fun to consume. --Robert Horton