L’Immensità from director Emanuele Crialese brims with an undeniable heart and soul as it navigates a Rome in 1970s, a period of transition, and a family navigating its own changes. Brimming with a buoyant nostalgia and freshness in the themes it tackles, L’Immensità features an enchanting lead turn from Penélope Cruz and star-making appearance from newcomer Luana Giuliani.
Crialese co-writes alongside with Francesca Manieri and Vittorio Moroni centring his tale on a middle-class Italian family of Clara (Cruz) and her husband, Felice, who move into a new apartment with three children. With her marriage gradually fraying due to Felice’s unfaithfulness and abusiveness, Clara pours all her love and attention into her children. In particular, Clara finds purpose in nurturing 13-year-old Adriana who has begun to identify as a identify as a boy, Andrew, and proclaims to his mother that he comes from another galaxy.
L’Immensità’s adoration for classic Italian pop culture becomes apparent from the feature’s earliest moments. We get a sense of the grand traditional family dynamic as Clara and her brood set the table whilst delivering a rousing lip-sync to Italian pop queen Raffaella Carra’s Rumore. Within these moments the feature’s sentimental backbone of family nostalgia becomes prevalent – Clara and her family pack a small, noisy household brimming with love. Yet beneath this Italo-pop veneer, L’Immensità’s central family comes with its own dramas. Clara and husband Felice’s marriage is one in gradual breakdown due to the latter’s unfaithfulness and unkind behaviour in the house. The children are similarly battling their own crises including Andrew’s discovery of his own gender identity.
L’Immensità captures this family in transition, amidst a city that is in transition. The vibrant streets of Rome are documented by Gergely Pohárnok’s striking cinematography. The bustle of the Italian capital and its eccentric population are seen in scenes of Andrew and Clara venturing into the city where the beautiful matriarch gets the attention of some lecherous locals – much to the horror of her child. Clara’s children comment that she only wears make up if crying or going out, and we get the sense of a woman whose life is unexpectedly thrown into flux at the breakdown of her marriage and she and her children’s attempt to navigate this new path.
Crialese captures the tight bond between the central mother and her children, depicted in nostalgia fuelled Summer holiday scenes set in the city’s striking rural expanses. Swims in the Mediterranean and outdoor feasts capture some of the magic moments which shape a family, whilst a sequence in which the children explore an underground ventilation system captures a sense of childhood misbehaviour. These moments present a tale rich in warm visuals and glossy nostalgia, whilst cementing the strong bond between parent and child that radiates throughout L’Immensità’.
Given that L’Immensità’ shines in the depiction of bond between mother and child, it is with no surprise that it presents a forward thinking approach to gender identity with Clara fully embracing Adriana’s transition to Andrew. Whilst this may take Clara some time to understand this journey, there’s an undercurrent of acceptance – also seen by Andrew’s acceptance from the local travelling community.
This snapshot of the changing lives of a family in Rome is further enhanced by a sense of aesthetic vibrancy as seen in renditions of Prisencolinensinainciusol by Adriano Celentano, Mina performances and Patty Pravo anthems. The progressive shift in the Italian musical landscape mirrors the journey taken by Clara and her family, whilst adding a sense of vibrancy and energy to proceedings.
L’Immensità is not a tale brimming with grit and heavy emotion, but instead a gently nostalgic and warm-heart glimpse into the inner workings and movements of a family in transition told with an impressive vibrancy.