How devoted is Tilda Swinton to her craft? Thespians occasionally learn another language in order to play a certain role, but Swinton plunged even deeper: For I Am Love, she not only learned to speak Italian and Russian, she also learned to speak Italian with a Russian accent.
Or at least that's what Swinton, the studio and director Luca Guadagnino have stated -- for all I know, she could be speaking Italian with an Inuit accent. The point is that Swinton's dedicated performance is the cornerstone of I Am Love (lo sono l'amore), a foreign import whose initially chilly demeanor will melt away for any viewer willing to stick with it. A drama centering on a wealthy family in Milan, this primarily follows dutiful wife Emma Recchi (Swinton) as she embarks on a love affair with the younger Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a splendid chef and best friend to Emma's sensitive son Edo (Flavio Parenti). Accustomed to operating with quiet efficiency and keeping her emotions on a low simmer, Emma finds her senses aroused by her extramarital tryst.
The plot threads involving the family business (textiles) aren't nearly as involving as the ones centering on the characters' various relationships -- I especially liked the scenes between Emma and her daughter (Alba Rohrwacher), who has just discovered her own lesbianism, and Emma and her faithful maid (Maria Paiato) -- and I didn't buy the late-inning tragedy for one minute. But through both its bird's-eye view of a world of privilege and its personal look at a woman's self-realization, I Am Love is easy to admire.