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I Am Love

by on October 12, 2010
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Symbolism in film is like spice in food: when overused, it can leave the viewer overwhelmed, overstimulated, gasping for water and completely missing the good stuff in the process.  With just the right dash, however, an already strong movie is made that much richer and more complex, perhaps requiring a second look to fully appreciate the piece.

The symbolism in “I Am Love” – represented in the clean lines of Milanese architecture, a bee exploring the depths of a flower, the slow and sensual enjoyment of perfectly cooked vegetables – could have veered in the heavy-handed direction.  Thanks in large part to Luca Guadagnino’s masterful direction and a bravura performance by Tilda Swinton (who learned Italian and Russian specifically for this film), it doesn’t.

As the matriarch of an affluent family in the house that their prominent textile factory built, Swinton’s Emma Recchi is at a crossroads.  She loves to cook but has a staff to do it for her, still longs for her Russian home, and witnesses the amorous coming of age of two of her children.  During a family gathering, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a talented chef and friend of Emma’s oldest son Edoardo (Flavio Parenti), stops by with a homemade cake.  And life for Emma is never quite the same again.

Using food, color and music through a sensual Italian eye, “I Am Love” subtly and skillfully explores the ramifications of romantic love versus familial expectations.  Though the story mainly focuses on Emma, subplots involving two of her children – newly-married Edoardo’s inheritance of the family business, and Betta’s (Alba Rohrwacher) journey to a London university and an unxpected paramour – further enrich the story’s tapestry.  Sure, the “mother falls for son’s best friend” plot sounds very Lifetime Original Movie, but “I Am Love” elevates the story to a whole new level: passionate, heartbreaking and deeply felt.

Special features include commentary and interviews.

Movie: 5 Yaps

DVD Extras: 4 Yaps