Refinery 29: 13 Things About The My Brilliant Friend TV Adaptation All Elena Ferrante Fans Need To Know

On Refinery 29

Elena Nicolaou – Nov 14, 2018

The HBO adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s book My Brilliant Friend is arriving on Sunday, November 18, and all we can wistfully sigh is, “At last.” After countless articles fantasizing about the adaptations’ dream cast, we’ll see the official visualization of the books that set off a little something called “Ferrante fever.” Ferrante’s quartet about two women growing up in post-war Naples ignited a rare kind of literary craze.
The series’ foray into prestige TVseemed almost inevitable — but with a series this beloved, the stakes were high. Luckily, we can say the adaptation clings to the source material accurately, thanks in part to the interventions of the enigmatic author, who goes by a pen name. When you see Elena Greco and Lina Cerullo on screen, you’ll recognize them immediately by their faces, as well as by the mountain of emotion that exists just a level below their expressions, occasionally peaking through.
My Brilliant Friend catches Elena and Lina at the start of their winding lives. They’re bright young girls who recognize in one another an aching hunger to be more than what their traditional, rigid community in Naples has dreamt for them. The next three novels follow the repercussions of their ambition — and, most memorably, tracks their thorny, compelling, occasionally toxic friendship.
This is what we know you want to know about the adaptation of My Brilliant Friend.
For the uninitiated, this is what the Neapolitan Novels are about. 

Elena Ferrante’s four-book series begin when Elena Greco, a woman in her 60s, receives a call that her old friend, Lina Cerullo, has suddenly disappeared. Elena doesn’t seem terribly surprised. This revelation prompts Elena to write the long story of their friendship, beginning with the events depicted in My Brilliant Friend. In that first novel, Lina and Elena meet as elementary schoolers in a post-World War II Naples community set on dimming their fire and eventually marrying them off. The next books — The Story of a New NameThose Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child — track the rest of their lives. The elderly Elena tries to parse her younger self’s motivations and dreams, and does the same for Lina.

Elena Ferrante hand-picked the series’ director.

Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are beloved for their crisp depiction of women’s inner lives. However, the HBO adaptation was directed by a man — a man who came with the Ferrante stamp of approval. Saverio Costanzo is a Roman director most famous for his 2014 movie Hungry Hearts, which starred Adam Driver.

Costanzo’s relationship with Ferrante goes back to 2007, back when he was a young director looking to adapt her novella The Lost Daughter. Despite being dissatisfied with the past two adaptations of her novellas, Ferrante agreed that Costanzo could have rights to The Lost Daughter for six months. But Costanzo couldn’t make the script work. After six months of laboring, he renounced the rights. Ferrante was out of touch for the next nine years, while Costanzo’s career grew.

Then, in 2016, Costanzo got an unexpected call saying Ferrante had put his name forward to direct the TV adaptation of her Neapolitan Novels. A few weeks later, producers called to say he got the job, one to which he had never applied. Though Costanzo spoke of his initial hesitations to the New York Times, he decided he couldn’t pass up a second chance to adapt Ferrante’s work.

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