My Brilliant Friend
Series | In Italian with English subtitles | 1 Season (8 episodes). Each episode is between 53 and 64 minutes | Original Release: November 18, 2018
This film series is an adaptation of the first of the four novels by Elena Ferrante. Protagonist Elena Greco is an elderly woman living alone in her book-filled apartment in Naples. She is told that the most important friend in her life has disappeared. She now sits by her computer and starts to write the story of their relationship. It begins when Elena and Lila, brilliant first-graders, bond by devouring “Little Women.” Elena is studious and reserved. Lila is prodigiously smart and a quick learner. They live in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. It’s a neighborhood where families do a lot of fighting, sometimes violently. As they grow older, their paths diverge. Elena’s’ parents keep her in school. Lila, a cobbler’s daughter, drops out of school to help in the shop. However, while working, she is able to effortlessly teach herself Latin and Greek. The film describes graphically and with great heartbreak how money and privilege can change a person’s life and painfully affect a relationship. This is what happens to these two girls as they mature to womanhood.
Why Screen This Film?
The series is so rich in post-war Italian history and so dramatic, that it’s being analyzed at a TV-writing class at the University of Iowa. The sometimes fractious, sometimes loving relationship between Elena and Lila, is simply unforgettable.
- Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus) 94% 94%
- Metacritic Score 87% 87%
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MY BRILLIANT FRIEND is a story about many things—left-wing politics, male violence, fancy shoes, the warping force of patriarchy on female creativity—but it’s centrally about class-jumping, through education, the kind that makes one aware of the origins of social class, including the ways it’s embedded in art.
Unforgettable. MY BRILLIANT FRIEND is presented in Italian with subtitles. Don’t let that scare you off. Take the journey. Amid the brutality, an intimacy and honesty unlike any other flourishes.
Lila and Elena’s friendship is intoxicating because, like Lila, it’s gorgeous and savage, thrilling and toxic all at once. The series became a sensation in Europe and the U.S. at least in part because of how viscerally Elena’s narration captures female friendship and all its emotional oscillations.
Season 1 is a formative story, and universal because of it. These are the daughters whose lives are prioritized behind their brothers, and the quiet kids in class who learn through silent observation. The world around them is filled with corruption, murder, and betrayal, but the plot hinges on their perseverance through education and friendship.
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