Sensual Italian import is silly, grandiose, but striking. 


The Italian melodrama I Am Love is often as ridiculous and grandiose as its title. It's the story of Emma Recchi (Tilda Swinton), the elegant, composed Russian wife of a Milanese textile magnate, whose great thaw comes at the tender hands of her adult son's best friend, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), an earthy chef who becomes her secret lover.

Beautifully shot by cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (who also photographed French director Francois Ozon's somewhat similar crossover art-house hit Swimming Pool), the film chronicles Emma's sexual awakening with a visual journey that begins with the severe, imposing beauty of Milan in winter and eventually winds to a hilly seaside village in spring.

But director Luca Guadagnino consistently overplays this material. Or, rather, overplays it too clumsily. In the increasingly crowded world of cinematic food/sex connections, Emma's first, nearly orgasmic taste of Antonio's prawns with ratatouille stands out as comically exaggerated yet apparently sincere. A later scene finds Emma's son taking one look a bowl of fish soup redolent of his childhood and a flood of quick-edited recognition overcomes him, as if he'd just been given all the sections of the screenplay he isn't in. It might be a comic reference to a great scene from the animated Ratatouille were I Am Love not so utterly serious.

This is a movie where two characters make love outside, a sensuous cinematic medley of flowers, berries, leaves, and bare skin. But then as climax approaches, shots of bees pollinating flowers begin to appear and composer John Adams' forceful, striking score explodes. (And I won't even get into the film's use of the most mawkish scene from Tom Hanks' Oscar-winner Philadelphia.)

Like Swimming Pool, I Am Love is a fantasy of transgression and liberation, but unlike Swimming Pool, it seems unaware of its own limits. And along with Guadagnino's at times overbearing direction comes an unearned sense of satisfaction — plot points about globalization and homosexuality are the stuff of an old-fashioned film playing progressive.

That I Am Love warrants attention despite its immense problems is a testament to some voluptuous visuals and the presence of the frequently extraordinary Swinton, who is transfixing throughout.

Opening Friday, July 23rd

Ridgeway Four

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.



Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment


I Am Love (Io sono l'amore)
Rated R · 120 min. · 2010
Official Site:
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writer: Barbara Alberti, Ivan Cotroneo and Luca Guadagnino
Producer: Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi d'Eril and Marco Morabito
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Flavio Parenti, Gabriele Ferzetti, Pippo Delbono, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Diane Fleri, Maria Paiato, Marisa Berenson and Waris Ahluwalia

Now Playing

I Am Love (Io sono l'amore) is not showing in any theaters in the area.

What others are saying


    The Latest

    Tiger Blue

    Tigers 10, Navy 7

    Tiger Blue

    VCU 70, Tigers 59

    Tiger Blue

    Western Kentucky 75, Tigers 69

    Politics Beat Blog

    Dispute Over Election Machines Remains Unsettled

    Tiger Blue

    Tigers 73, Saint Mary's 56

    Letter From The Editor

    Farewell to the “Risk-Takers”

    Food & Wine

    Sink Your Teeth into Bluff City Toffee


    More by Chris Herrington

    • Last Words

      In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
      • Sep 26, 2013
    • Masters of Sound

      New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
      • Sep 19, 2013
    • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

      • Sep 19, 2013
    • More »

    Readers also liked…

    © 1996-2020

    Contemporary Media
    65 Union, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
    Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
    Powered by Foundation