Directed by: Emanuele Crialese
Distributed by: Music Box
Written by Taylor Baker
Three children navigate their neighborhood, school, family, and lives in “L’immensità,” while their mother Clara (Penelope Cruz) traverses a marriage that is seemingly at the end of its rope. The film is generally more interested in the social mores of the family unit than anything else, aside from the forward trajectory of the eldest daughter Adriana struggling with her identity as a girl and changing her name to Andrew. “L’immensità” is at its strongest when the family is interacting amongst themselves for better or worse, with Cruz’s Clara combatting Felice (Vincenzo Amato) over their children, when Clara leads a family karaoke session while they set the table, or when the kids go into a forest path that Clara has forbidden them from. The subtleties of family dynamics are on full display, and rather than be expounded on or exposited they are moved through organically.
Crialese and cinematographer Gergely Pohárnok make effectual use of extreme close-ups of the characters particularly Clara and Adriana/Andrew, as well as isolation-inducing still shots in the interiors of the family’s apartment. Often moving the camera or shooting in a way that feels lighter when the children are outside, communicating a distinctive sense of freedom from the oppression that awaits them in buildings and when their father is home. This visual suffocation motif is hammered home a bit too pointedly in certain scenes, but the underlying theme is effectual.
“L’immensità” doesn’t do anything exceptionally well as a film itself, it’s through Cruz’s performance of Clara and the smaller choices and nuances of her performance that adds to what is an otherwise straightforward film. It’s her shrug after telling the doctor that Andrew’s name is “Adri, as in Adriana” that the film finds something more complex to balance itself on. As we pay attention to whether or not she has make-up on, her son tells us early on that she only wears it when going out or has been crying. These smaller if simple wrinkles turn what is a rather orthodox and straightforward narrative of finding one’s identity in an oppressive environment and layer humanity into the journey. While far from Cruz’s best film, her turn as Clara is another distinctive individual in a long line from Cruz.