Even before the title appears for the Venice Film Festival competition entry L’immensita, we know that Penelope Cruz is the funniest mom, probably the only fun mom, in town. She doesn’t just set the table for dinner; she puts on music, leads the kids in a choreographed dance, and sings as plates and cutlery are passed around, getting excited at a passing fork as if it were a microphone. Adults bore her. At a birthday dinner for an elderly relative, she slips under the table to join her children in removing and mixing up everyone’s shoes. “I want to play!” she says, her eyes sparkling.
Her eldest son, who is also reluctant to grow up for his own very different reasons, urges her to sit back in her chair. She can see where this is leading. Mothers aren’t supposed to play; they are supposed to play cards and comb their hair. In 1970s Rome, there are a lot of things you’re not supposed to do. Some of them, like beating your wife if you are a father and head of a household, you can get away with quite easily. Others, like wearing boy’s clothes when you were born a girl, aren’t so easily dismissed.
Adriana (Luana Giulani), called Adri as a kind of compromise, although she introduces herself as Andrea, an Italian boy’s name, to strangers, she is 12 years old. So far, Adri is mercifully flat-chested; we first see her on the roof of her apartment block, coiling threads into an elaborate pentagon that is supposed to house the kind of intergalactic energy that, as she cryptically puts it, “will work a miracle.” A few weeks later, she chews on a stack of dusty wafers with the same hope, giving herself asthma in the process. It is a race against the scroll of time.
Clara de Cruz and her husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato) detest each other. Divorce is legal recently, but separation is out of the question; there is no escape outside the family. Her children, Adri, Gino (Patrizio Francioni) and even little Diana (Maria Chiara Goretti) adore their mother, avoid their father and control the tensions between them, resisting the patriarchy in their own home with whatever small act of rebellion they can. they can. can gather. Adri regularly visits a nearby Roma camp, where he shyly woos a girl named Sara who may or may not realize he’s not really a boy, mostly by playing tag. He’s very sweetly pre-teen and uncertain, because who knows where Adri’s identity will eventually land?
Emanuele Crialese describes his film as a trip down Roman memory lane, to an era of endless variety shows on Italian television, Polaroids, and highly flammable, garishly colored furniture. Despite tackling some ostensibly heavy topics, and one currently tense on Adri’s gender dysphoria, which will no doubt draw criticism from those looking for something closer to a statement, Crialese maintains a carefree tone, a striking palette, and the radiance of a more innocent time. however deceptive that appearance of innocence was.
In that spirit, he has chosen a handful of contemporary pop songs as musical pieces that mimic those old TV variety shows, in which families become stars and schoolgirl choirs camp out in a cast of thousands of dance numbers. Nothing could be more camper than the originals, to be sure, but there’s a visceral, cheesy thrill to seeing Penélope Cruz playing a go-go girl while Adri lip-syncs Italian TV’s answer to Johnny Cash.
It ends with a cabaret act, a festive climax to the family story. Nothing is resolved; Nobody’s chances of happiness are greater than they were at the beginning; the most that can be said for that is that they have at least bought a new sofa, even if it doesn’t seem any less likely that the old one will catch fire. stop to think about it and L’immensita he’s fundamentally quite gloomy, but he has a delightfully cheerful face.