Tuesday, September 27, 2022

My Brilliant Friend: The Re-Watch

Probably the best show on TV that's not filmed in English, My Brilliant Friend is the HBO series based on Elena Ferrante's best-selling quartet of novels. The first, from which the series takes its name, was published in 2011 by Europa Editions in the United States, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, who has translated the entire series. The books follow the friendship and fortunes of two young women growing up poor in Naples after World War 2. Elena and Lila are both bright students; they are each other's "brilliant friend," but it becomes clear which one is gifted and which is just driven. In the first book, which is the only one I've read, Elena and Lila go from little girls to young women on the cusp adulthood and already their paths are beginning to diverge.

HBO has produced and aired three seasons of the show so far, which correspond to the first three books. The first season is quite faithful to the book and I feel like the subsequent seasons probably are, too, though I don't know. Certainly they maintain a similar pace season to season. The young actresses who play Lila and Elena as children are quickly replaced by episode 3 with the women who will play them into middle age, Gaia Girace for Lila and Margherita Mazzucco for Elena.  In season 4 I gather two new actresses will take on the roles as the characters enter late middle age and perhaps beyond.

Season 2 was more or less balanced between the two characters but Season 3 has focused more on Elena as the women's lives go their separate ways. They stay in touch but don't see each other for years; the season ends with Elena delivering shocking news to Lila about the next stage in her life.

What will Season 4 bring? We know that the first episode opened with Rino, Lila's son, calling Elena because his mother has disappeared. And the story has been the story of Elena's memories, her piecing together Lila's story, reconstructing the trail so she can find her friend again, maybe. Or maybe it's time to let her go.

So I've been re-watching the show on Sunday morning one episode at a time to get ready for whenever it is that Season 4 finally drops. And I've been inflicting it on my husband since I watch enough science fiction lol.  It's a great show for a slow weekend morning breakfast, absorbing and engaging. HBO has said they are ending the show at Season 4 and I'm really glad they're not going to use it to jump off into the further adventures like happens sometimes with literary adaptations. It's a beautifully done small-scale epic, a well paced narrative that tells a moving story about love and life and all the people who give our lives meaning and grace.

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