Later on, when Emma sees photos of Betta’s girlfriend, she becomes wistful. Betta has found a life outside of the strict traditions of high Italian society, and Emma wants in on that, although she has been repressed for so long that she doesn’t realize that she wants in on having feelings until the very end of the film when tragedy strikes — and Emma, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, runs for the hills in a jogging suit with a discordant John Adams score screeching and nipping at her heels, egging her on to run faster.
In the final scene it is apparent that Betta is the only one in the family who understands Emma’s need to escape, and she nods her approval through tear soaked eyes as the rest of the family stands around like second graders staring at a page from Finnegan’s Wake, unable to get their synapses to fire.
Whereas Betta’s role in Emma’s awkward journey to freedom and self-fulfillment is important, the main catalyst is Antonio, a chef who served Emma a dish of prawns that melted the frost off her icy loins. Antonio and Emma have an affair in the countryside, and Emma falls in love with him. But things are a bit complicated. Antonio and Emma’s son Edo are planning to open a restaurant together, and the two share a bromance that is one step away from being homoerotic. Things cannot end well, and they do not end well.
Shot exquisitely, this film will arouse your senses. The abrupt tragedy and equally abrupt ending may leave you scratching your head, but life doesn’t always progress in a series of perfect segues. One final note: if you do see this film, I advise you not to see it on an empty stomach. You will covet every culinary creation presented on screen, and you will only become hungrier.
I Am Love opens June 18 in select theaters nationwide.