L’Immensita: Love and Learning Who We Are

Set in 1970s Rome, L’Immensita tells the story of young Adri (Luana Guiliani), a young woman who now identifies as Andrea. Andrea (Italian for Andrew) loves his mother Clara (Penelope Cruz) and supports her in the midst of her challenging marriage to Felice (Vincenzo Amato). However, when he falls in love with a girl from a nearby Roma camp, Andrea’s personal journey creates stress within his home (and himself).

Directed by Emanuele Crialese, L’Immensita is a charming story of personal growth and what it means to love one another. Set in the heart of Rome, Crialese infuses the film with lush colours to depict the vibrancy of the world around them. Here, Rome is meant to be seen as a place of energy, romance and fire. As such, Crialese does his best to ensure that as many scenes as possible are fueled with vitality, whether it’s the heat of rage or the desires of the heart. 

Of course, one can’t deny that Cruz turns in a compelling performance, as is usually the case. As the motherly Clara, Cruz demonstrates her maternal love but also a feminine strength that shines through as well. However, much of the film’s genuine nature is earned through the casting of young Guiliani. In their first credited acting role, Guiliani portrays the confusion of youth with humility and courage. This is not an easy role yet they work hard to show the conflict within their character and the challenges of reconciling his world.

In this way, part of the unique joy of the film is the point of view of its narrative. Told through the perspective of Andrea, there’s a certain level of surprise that shapes its scenes. As Andrea sets out on his journey of self-discovery, his story grounded in reality but his vision is sifted through his youthfulness. As such, there’s an innocence to L’Immensita that fuels its relationships. Musical numbers, black and white television and whimsical romance all become filters that frame the way that he views the world. However, at the same time, moments of fear become far more terrifying.

As a result, L’Immensita becomes a film about understanding who we are in a world that doesn’t seem to know what to do with us. Andrea repeated tries to reconcile his personal feelings with his physical form. (“You made me wrong,” he informs his mother.) To him, he’s from ‘outer space’ and he struggles to piece together his life. In this sense, despite its period setting, this coming-of-age tale feels very modern. Set amongst people who struggle to understand him, Andrea’s gender-fuelled journey is a cry to be heard. 

In this space, L’Immensita leans into the nature of love, whether it’s romantic or parental. As Andrea feels the call to romance, so too must his mother learn what it means to accept her son. To Clara, Adri may have been the child she had but Andrea is the child that she knows. As a result, L’Immensita accepts the challenges of love and speaks to what it means to support those we care about. 

L’Immensita is available on VOD on Friday, May 26th, 2023.

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