I Am Love (Review)

Tilda Swinton anchors compelling Italian family drama

Tilda Swinton is oddly alluring in some roles (Orlando) and just plain odd in others (Michael Clayton). She's a chameleon whose lanky, androgynous physical features and nuanced emotive talents are comfortable in both high-profile Hollywood studio pictures (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and smaller-scale foreign films (Julia).

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino takes advantage of her unique presence in I Am Love, an elegant, Renoir-esque family drama that touches on everything from issues of globalism and social class to sexuality and the pleasures of good food.

Swinton is Emma, the regal Russian-born wife of Tancredi Recchi (Pippo Delbono), a wealthy Italian whose father's textile company has “carved its name into the country's history.” Emma and Tancredi have three children, the eldest of which, Edoardo (Flavio Parenti), is on the verge of marriage, and the youngest of which, Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher), is dealing with her own evolving relationship issues.

Set in Milan, the first half of the film takes great care in its depiction of the Recchi family dynamic, which finds Edoardo increasingly at odds with his father and younger brother (Mattia Zaccaro) over decisions relating to the family business. But Guadagnino gradually — and unexpectedly — turns our attention to Emma's developing affection for Edoardo's friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a talented chef who represents everything the faithful but un-attentive Tancredi is not.

The final third of I Am Love transforms into a languid love story that melds Terrence Malick's elemental interest in nature and Bernardo Bertolucci's primal, intimate explorations in sexuality. At the center of it all is Swinton, an expressive actress who isn't afraid to dive into her character's — and the film's — battle between traditional order and untamed desire. Grade: A-

Opens July 23. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.

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