By: Amanda Guarragi
When we are children, we live in our bubbles. Creating our fantasy world is safe because we have barely any responsibilities. As we grow up, the world changes our perception of life and how adults live. The older we get, the more we understand relationship dynamics and the difference between societal roles. L’Immensità explores one family’s life with their secrets and how they’ve come to live with the choices they’ve made. Director Emanuele Crialese subtly crafts this story about a mother, Clara (Penelope Cruz), who loses herself in her abusive marriage while channelling her inner child to connect more with her children. It’s a heartbreaking story that shows the fine line between motherhood and agency and how perceptive children can be when something is wrong.
Clara has a stronger connection with her three children than with her husband. The story focuses on her oldest child, Adri (Luana Giuliani), who is having an identity crisis. Clara and Adri share a special bond. Adri is the oldest and understands how men and women operate. She defends Clara against her father quite often. Adri knows that her mother is being abused and interjects whenever possible. Crialese has the children hear their arguments instead of showing the more effective abuse. Cruz gives a stunning performance as her reactions reveal more than words ever could. It’s hard to see a woman balance motherhood and her issues as a woman, all while trying to raise her children.
Crialese frames Clara and Adri as the main characters in their stories through the fantasy world he creates. There are beautifully shot musical numbers that are integrated to show what they long for. Adri wants to be seen as a boy, so he tries to escape to a place where no one knows who she is. She finds love on the other side of the cornstalks with a gypsy and claims their name as Andrew instead. Even to get away from the madness of his home, he feels seen and accepted there. The more people taunt Adri and question his mental state, the more he lashes out in trying to understand why God made him the way he is. Through this identity crisis and exploration of sexuality, Adri has to become a parent to his mother as well.
L’Immensità highlights the many obstacles women have to face when dealing with the facade of womanhood. There is no proper way to be a woman or how to handle toxic situations. It shows the societal conditioning of a nuclear family and how much of a facade it can be. Crialese crafts a beautiful script that plays on the subtleties of his characters to have a closer emotional connection with them. It’s incredibly emotional when the children begin to understand how their father mistreats their mother, and they all go to console her. This coming-of-age piece can also resonate with adults, as Crialese uses some of his experiences to show the intellectual connection between teens and adults.