The Movie Waffler New to VOD - L’IMMENSITÁ | The Movie Waffler


In 1970s Italy the daughter of an unhappily married couple begins to identify as male.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Emanuele Crialese

Starring: Penélope Cruz, Luana Giuliani, Vincenzo Amato

L'immensità poster

Perhaps the most welcome feature of Twitter's timely demise is the decreased space for anti-trans hatred, which the hyperbolic nature of the insular platform not only propagates but also incubated. Opening X (ha!) at any point over the last six months meant confrontation with agitated, faux-impassioned anti-trans drivel, which, even from a limited real-life experience, was clearly uninformed and rooted in fear and loathing. I am loosely acquainted with trans people (disclaimer no.1 - I am a cis male who is comfortable both in his body and sexuality; I realise that for other people this is not the case, and I do not hate them for it and do not understand why anyone else could), and I can promise you that they are simply uninterested in snooping in bathrooms or in Your Kids (nb, no one is really interested in Your Kids: we are all just being polite because Your Kids are Fucking Boring). The trans people I've met don't care about competitive sports, either. As a circumscribed platform which is predicated upon simplified and sensationalist conjecture, Twitter has inflated transsexuality into an abstract, an imaginary threat for people who like to have an enemy which they feel confident are weaker than them. It is impossible to engage with these scapegoating pricks because they're in thrall to the exponential phenomena, not the real-life human beings directly involved (it's easier to scoff at fictional kids-identify-as-cats nonsense and get het up about the untruth that six-year-olds are undergoing surgery than actually engage with concrete socio-political scenarios that require a modicum of understanding beyond what is severed in deliciously tantalising hate-bites, after all). Here is hoping that the dopamine thrill of the pile-on, and the satisfyingly self-righteous spite it encourages, will diminish with the platform. It all seems so... old fashioned.

L'immensità review

It is interesting, then, that Emanuele Crialese's (writing shared with Francesca Manieri and Vittorio Moroni) L'immensità, which centres on the gender dysmorphia of a young boy born a girl, is a period piece set in late '70s Rome. Trans-people have existed for yonks (it is not a "new thing") and by representing the issue within a recent-enough past, away from the artifice and inflation of the social media discourse, L'immensità attempts to engender a fresh depiction which is rooted in individual experience. Adri (Luana Giuliani) is a teen uncomfortable in their body and the expectations society has of their birth gender. They are the oldest of three, with a father, Felice (Vincenzo Amato), who is conservative and absent; fortune has, however, favoured Adri with a mum, Clara, who is funny, intelligent and stylish and played by God Pénelope Cruz (disclaimer no.2 - my favourite actor). What a role model! Problem is, Clara has demons of her own, with an undiagnosed depressive nature...

Like the deliberate setting of Romeo and Juliet's Verona (it is accepted that Shakespeare never left England) locating this colourful character-drama in a masculinist, heteronormative Italy is instructive. Within this oppressive patriarchy there is only space for a certain type of male persona, and so we see Clara and Adri wolf whistled and harassed in the street by a couple of emboldened no-marks, along with the domestic assumption that Clara will house-make and accept Felice's indiscretions and whims. In a sequence which characterises the film's narrative cross over of Clara and Adri, and how this dynamic examines gender roles, we see Adri, in subjectively low-angle frame, crawl under his parent's bed - impelled by an instinctive need to protect, or curiosity? - and freak out at Felice's attempted sexual assault of his wife: Clara is a victim of gender hegemony, while Adri is nonplussed by its hallmarks of violence and dominance. "Hiding" is a symbolic motif which is continued throughout the film, with Adri sneaking into enclosed spaces at various points, most spectacularly when he and his kinspeople (including cousins) get stuck in a drainage system...

L'immensità review

Leaning into the Mediterranean stereotype, said episode takes place during an en masse family gathering (another milieu with heightened expectations of teens), and, when the panicked kids are rescued, the parents go ape and start smacking their offspring with angered relief. But not Clara. This free spirit instead sprays everyone with a garden hose to chill them out. Like her son, Clara is at odds with the conservatism of her surroundings, and not only joins the kids in the various hide and seek games, but also makes grand play of other situations, as if in refusal of her subjected status quo. At times, L'immensità is a musical, with fantasised sequences featuring gorgeous period pop functioning as sublimated escapism for our mother/son duo. We see Clara marshal the kids into domestic chores choreographed to the joyous stomp of Raffaella Carrà's 'Rumore' and during the film's stand out sequence witness Adri lip-synching to 'Prisencolinensinainciusol', with the rest of the cast and extras dancing in perfect pastiche of the era's European music videos. If the image of a monochrome, swaying Penélope Cruz in a platinum wig miming the female sequences of the song doesn't charge you with joy then you have no heart/are straight.

L'immensità review

These deeply cinematic confections are the draw for L'immensità, which is otherwise a straightforward bildungsroman delineated within the repressive confines of melodrama. The film presents interesting ideas, such as the conflation of transubstantiation with transsexuality: if wheat flour and water can be identified as flesh and blood, the film proposes, then what's the issue with a person identifying as a particular gender? But such excursions, just like the sweet subplot of Adri's burgeoning relationship with a "gypsy girl" (Sara - Penélope Nieto Conti), are ultimately left unexplored due to the film's overriding concerns, which is the glorious depiction of its star and her mesmerising energy. In the opening sequence of L'immensità, Adri and Clara are linked in a two shot that flicks from a medium frame of the boy to an extreme close up of his mother's eyes (thick with mascara, of course), slightly tilting to the mocha freckles of her nose, a cigarette held by scarlet painted hands, blush lips. Cut to the pearl of an earring, the eyes again in a gentle cant lingering in and out of focus: Adri, and L'immensità (and, yes alright, we) are infatuated by Cruz, with the film luminously bending around her like a glow, and playing to her strengths: urgent emotional communication, stoic repression, and looking incredible.

L'immensità is on UK/ROI VOD now.

2023 movie reviews