Jan 1, 2019 – T. M. Weedon
The show opens on the blue glow of a vibrating phone in a darkened bedroom in the middle of the night. The next evening, Elena, 60 years old, sits down at her laptop to write the story of a friendship. Not again during the series will anonymous screens interface between individuals. We leave Elena’s solitude for the dense social network of a 1950s neighborhood in Naples, Italy, where gossip jumps from balcony to balcony as women hang the laundry and each family is defined by the necessary trade they provide to the community. The Cerullo’s are the shoemakers; the Solara’s tend the café; the Carracci’s run the grocery; the Scanno’s sell fruits and vegetables, and so on, personal identities affixed through the symbiosis of small-town commerce, generations worth of friendship and rivalry.
To the eyes of a child, these tightly woven relationships are sprawling and wondrous, with darkened secrets underlying the apparent yet unknown alliances that surround. To the eyes of a young adult, the stagnant, ancient make-up of the neighborhood is banal and suffocating, colored by violence and poverty. My Brilliant Friend chronicles such an evolution in perspective, as Elena, or Lenù, as she’s affectionately called, and her best friend, Lila, grapple with either accepting their own assumed roles within the community or devising an improbable means of escape.