I Am Love (Io sono l’amore)

Starring Tilda Swinton, Edoardo Gabbrielini, Flavio Parenti and Alba Rohrwacher. Directed by Luco Guadagnino.
Rated MA15+ (strong sex scenes). 119 mins.

Can anyone remember any other movie in which lovers are betrayed by a bowl of soup? Director/co-writer Luco Guadagnino can probably claim a first for his “tragic love story” set in the rarefied world of a family of wealthy Milan industrialists. The scene in which the soup is noticed and its implications realised, followed by an exchange of oh-so-meaningful glances, is so redolent of silent-movie melodrama that it’s a wonder the actors were able to keep straight faces.

Conviction is the element missing from this turgid tale of the Recchi family, which begins with the patriarch retiring and naming his son Tancredi (Pippo Delbono) and grandson Edo (Flavio Parenti) as his successors to run the family’s textile empire.
Their wife and mother, Russian-born Emma (Tilda Swinton), is for some reason or another unhappy with her lot, despite the life of luxury. So she enters into a passionate relationship with Antonio (Edoardo Gabbrielini), a talented chef who is a friend of Edo with whom Edo wants to start a restaurant business.

It’s Emma divulging her mother’s Russian soup recipe to Antonio and his serving it at a family business dinner that alerts Edo to the fact that Emma and Antonio have been sharing more than cookbooks, which in turn leads to the tragic finale.

None of the actors is allowed to make any impact. They all seem rather robotic, kept at arm’s length by the director’s cold style in which every scene is clinically staged and spontaneity is discouraged.

The chief attraction of the film is its detailed depiction of the Recchis’ opulent lifestyle, which is indeed attractive, but Guadagnino’s obsession with peripheral detail destroys any dramatic impetus it may have had. For no good reason the director cuts away, it seems randomly, to shots of mountains shrouded in mist, bees buzzing in blossoms or ants traversing a piece of ground; he pans over the exterior of buildings; the camera leaves one set of characters, goes up a wall to momentarily show a family portrait of someone or other, then sweeps down to the next scene; he even includes a gratuitous close-up of Emma’s foot (?!) while she is seated at table. But if this is exasperating, it is outclassed by the soundtrack music by American composer John Adams, which is about the most irritating I have heard.

On the whole, this reviewer was not enamoured of I Am Love.

Rialto Distribution   Out June 24

Mr Jim Murphy is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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