I Am Love, from Italian director Luca Guadagnino, is a story about a woman who finds her freedom after being caged her entire life — even though the cage comes with a stunning mansion and an impressive Jil Sander wardrobe.
Tilda Swinton plays the central character Emma Recchi, the wife of textile tycoon Tancredi Recchi. She is strikingly beautiful, and very, very repressed.
Emma has three adult children: Edo, who has just inherited part of the family business; Gianluca, who wears tailored suits but speaks as if he were in a stoner film and not a lush and magnificent family drama; and Betta (played by Alba Rohrwacher), who has aspirations to be an artist.
At the beginning of the film Betta has long hair, and she goes through the motions of flirting with her boyfriend, who, like her entire family, is predictable, safe and boring. Later on, she comes back home to visit from art school in London sporting a butch haircut and an unfortunate pairing of ill-fitting khaki capris and puffy black high top sneakers. Like thousands of women before her, the girl went into an arts program and done dyked out. (But someone needs to grab her by the collar of her polo shirt and direct her to Styled Out.)
Although Betta has very little screen time, she plays a pivotal role in her mother’s emotional awakening. When Emma by chance comes across a note from Betta to Edo in which Betta confesses that she has fallen in love with a woman, you can see the dusty gears start creaking in Emma’s mind. “Feelings? What are they? And can I have some too?”
Emma has fulfilled the role of austere matriarch of a wealthy conservative family for so long, running the household with the precision and dispassionate ticking of a Swiss watch, that she has forgotten about simple things like emotions that other human beings take for granted.