The New York Times: ‘My Brilliant Friend’: A Fairy Tale of Youth Gives Way to Messy Adolescence

On The New York Times

Gal Beckerman, Alicia DeSantis, Nicole Herrington – Nov 26, 2018

This conversation includes spoilers for the first four episodes of “My Brilliant Friend.”

Episode 3 of “My Brilliant Friend” opens with two new actresses playing Lenù (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila (Gaia Girace), who are now teenagers. The girls’ lives are also diverging in new ways: Lenù is heading to a classical high school in Naples; Lila is working with her brother in her father’s shoe repair store. But that doesn’t mean they are any less competitive, and puberty brings new ways for Lenù to measure herself against her old friend. Meanwhile, tensions mount as a new generation of men vie for power in the neighborhood along battle lines drawn by their parents.

Once a week, over the four weeks the series airs on HBO, we are gathering a rotating group of Elena Ferrante fans from across The New York Times newsroom to discuss the show. You can read our discussion of the first two episodes here.

This week, Nicole Herrington and Alicia DeSantis, editors on the Culture desk, and Gal Beckerman, an editor on the Books desk, jump into Episodes 3 and 4.

GAL BECKERMAN As the third episode opens, we get a time jump that moves Lenù and Lila into their teenage years of burgeoning sexual awareness and acne trouble. I was impressed with how seamless the transition was between the child and teenage actresses who play the girls, and especially the opening, which smartly and swiftly uses a dream sequence to move it all forward. But there were other ways that the show, in its design choices, signaled the other big transition, a shift in perspective from the parent’s world to the children’s. Same streets, but not so drab and gray. There were pops of color. A bit more life and possibility in a passing pastel pink dress. Part of this was the move from the 1940s into the postwar boom of the 1950s, but it also gave the visceral sense of youth emerging into their own, claiming the neighborhood.

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