Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend is now a TV series – but is it any good?
Hannah Shaddock – Nov 19, 2018
“We lived in a world in which children and adults were often wounded, blood flowed from the wounds, they festered, and sometimes people died.”
That’s how Elena Greco, the narrator of My Brilliant Friend by Italian author Elena Ferrante, describes her childhood in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of 1950s Naples. It’s an apt description, too, of the world we see on screen in a new Sky Atlantic adaptation of the novel, beginning on Monday 19th November.Ferrante – who uses a pen name to maintain her anonymity, although there were attempts to unmask her in 2016 – was intimately involved in the production, developing the script with director Saverio Costanzo, entirely via email. The result is a mostly successful adaptation, closely aligned to Ferrante’s books, and a uniquely absorbing drama.
This first eight-episode run is based on the first book; three more series are planned, one for each of what are known as Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. My Brilliant Friend opens with a 60-something Elena Greco discovering that her old friend Lila is missing, having taken all of her belongings and cut herself out of family pictures. Elena, or Lenù, starts to write the story of their friendship to undermine Lila’s self-erasure, sending us back to the scruffy streets where the pair grew up.