REVIEW: L’immensità (2022, dir. Emanuele Crialese)

Certificate: 12A

Running Time: 99 mins

UK Distributor: Curzon

WHO’S IN L’IMMENSITÀ?

Luana Giuliani, Penélope Cruz, Vincenzo Amato, Maria Chiara Goretti, Patrizio Francioni, Penelope Nieto Conti, Alvia Reale, India Santella, Mariangela Granelli, Valentina Cenni

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Emanuele Crialese (director, writer), Francesca Manieri and Vittorio Moroni (writers), Lorenzo Gangarossa, Mario Gianani and Dimitri Rassam (producers), Rauelsson (composer), Gergely Pohárnok (cinematographer), Clelio Benevento (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

In 1970s Rome, a transgender teen (Giuliani) struggles with her complicated home life…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON L’IMMENSITÀ?

If you’re wondering what L’immensità – the title of Italian filmmaker Emanuele Crialese’s coming-of-age drama – actually means, a quick Google Translate will reveal its English phrase as “the immensity”. There’s a number of different ways that this can be interpreted within the narrative context of this feature: it could describe the weight of love between a parent and a child; it might be referring to the sharp divide within an unhappy marriage; there’s even a slim chance that it could describe the feeling of being inside a body that you’re certain isn’t the right one for you.

However you may apply the English translation of L’immensità here, it gives Crialese’s often playful but surprisingly restrained film a decent few layers to push through in order to get to its emotional core.

Set in 1970s Rome, 13-year-old Adriana (Luana Giuliani) – who insists he is a boy named Andrew, hence the he/him pronouns going forward – has just moved with his family to a lush new apartment in the city. His mother Clara (Penélope Cruz) is deeply unhappy, trapped in an abusive relationship with her cheating husband Felice (Vincenzo Amato) and suffering from frequent manic episodes that put her mental state into constant question. Although neither of Andrew’s parents acknowledge his preferred gender, constantly referring to him as “her” or “Adri”, he nonetheless retains a close relationship with his mother, even as he witnesses his family life fall apart bit by bit.

For its somewhat morose focus on domestic family drama, filled with uncomfortable tension as its patriarch physically and verbally abuses those who he feels to be stepping out of line, L’immensità is at times incredibly lively. Crialese, who based the film on his own experiences growing up as a transgender teen, brings a sense of passion and imagination to numerous scenes of youthful bliss, playing into its juvenile perspective while still grounding it firmly in reality. One moment, our young protagonist Andrew will be leading his even younger siblings and cousins on a Goonies-style adventure underneath the labyrinthian cellar of a family holiday home, and the next he and the other young adventurers will be getting smacked and yelled at by their concerned mothers. There are even some dazzling black-and-white fantasy sequences where Andrew imagines a Fellini-esque musical number in the middle of a church service, and later on imagines certain close figures singing a moving ballad as someone on the TV in unrecognisable make-up. It’s here where Crialese severely turns on the charm and really embraces the wild and blissful tone he clearly strives to get across.

While it is perfectly pleasant in the moment, not to mention very well acted by young lead Luana Giuliani and a Sophia Loren-channelling Penélope Cruz, there’s something about L’immensità that feels like it’s somehow holding back on a lot of things. Since there is a loose narrative at play, it tends to pick up and then drop certain strands at its own leisure, leaving parts somewhat underdeveloped. There’s a nice reoccurring sub-plot involving Andrew becoming close with a fellow teen, who lives with her family on a construction site past the forest of reeds separating their homes, but the way that the film is structured means that we’re not focused on this as much as we perhaps should, with the bleak domestic strife taking major precedence above most other things. It is such that whenever we do cut back to this strand, enough time has passed to where you might even have forgotten it was a part of the film entirely.

There’s a number of other things about this movie which seem as though they might have benefited from another ten or even twenty minutes of screentime, such as an alarming late episode involving Cruz’s Clara which comes seemingly out of nowhere and without proper explanation, or the effects of the parents’ unhappy marriage on the lives of Andrew’s sidelined siblings (one of which begins repeatedly defecating on the carpet, an odd trait which is rarely followed up upon). It gives off the impression that Crialese may be reluctant to share too much of himself in his semi-autobiographical story, but in being so he leaves a large number of things unresolved within the confines of his narrative, even ending things on a note that feels like there’s a whole chunk of story left to tell.

Though it may not be as sturdy in its structure as it perhaps ought to be, L’immensità does manage to get away with scenes that bring out the charming adolescent playfulness in some really imaginative ways. It is here where Crialese’s film shines the most, with its lively portrayal of a childhood that, while certainly not without its misery, feels vibrant enough to make one want to revisit their own adolescence. That is where, for my money, the real immensity of this film comes from.

SO, TO SUM UP…

L’immensità is an often playful and imaginative portrayal of adolescence, anchored by strong turns by Penélope Cruz and young lead Luana Giuliani, but an uneven structure leaves more to be desired.

L’immensità is now showing in cinemas nationwide

It is also available to rent exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema

Stay updated with all the latest reviews and previews by signing up for our free newsletter, delivered to your e-mail inbox every week!

Search from over ten years of movies here:

Other recent reviews:

Sting (2024, dir. Kiah Roache-Turner)

A mysterious little spider soon grows to terrifying sizes…

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (2024, dir. George Miller)

A young Furiosa attempts to make her way home in a post-apocalyptic wasteland…

The Garfield Movie (2024, dir. Mark Dindal)

The lazy cat Garfield comes face-to-face with his long-lost father…

The Strangers: Chapter 1 (2024, dir. Renny Harlin)

A couple find themselves tormented by masked intruders…

IF (2024, dir. John Krasinski)

A young girl develops the ability to see people’s imaginary friends…

Hoard (2024, dir. Luna Carmoon)

A troubled teen begins a dysfunctional relationship with an older man…

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes (2024, dir. Wes Ball)

Many years after the reign of Caesar, an ape-ruled kingdom comes under threat…

The Fall Guy (2024, dir. David Leitch)

A Hollywood stuntman winds up on an epic misadventure during his latest gig…

Tarot (2024, dirs. Spenser Cohen and Anna Halberg)

A group of teenagers find themselves haunted after messing with spiritual tarot cards…

The Idea of You (2024, dir. Michael Showalter)

A 40-year-old single mother begins a relationship with a much younger pop star…