A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
Did she understand when she married her husband what sort of family she was joining? She knew they were rich Italian aristocrats, operators of textile mills in Milan. But did she understand that as a wife from Russia, she would serve and provide and even be loved, but would never truly be a member?
When we see Emma (Tilda Swinton) she is preparing the Recchi house for the birthday party of the patriarch. She seems to relate more as a caterer than as a hostess. At the head of the table is the grand old Edoardo (Gabriele Ferzetti). Among those gathered are his son and her husband, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono). The old man makes an unexpected announcement: He is retiring, and putting Tancredi in charge. But not Tancredi alone. His grandson, their son, Edo (Flavio Parenti) also will share the responsibility.
Is Emma filled with joy? Her husband and son will inherit the dynasty? She is so calm and expert, it's hard to say. Tilda Swinton is a daring actress who doesn't project emotions so much as embody them. “I Am Love” provides an ideal role for her, in that her actions speak instead of words. We learn she has her own private space, that after launching a family event, she likes to leave it running smoothly and retire to her room upstairs.
The opening act of Luca Guadagnino's film establishes the stature of the Recchi family as surely as the Corleones are established in “The Godfather,” or the Salinas in Visconti's “The Leopard.” It may be impossible to write about this film without evoking “The Leopard,” not simply because they both involve Italian aristocrats, but because they involve matters of succession, and the way that love and lust can breach the walls aristocrats live behind. Guadagnino makes the connection inescapable by the use of the name Tancredi; in “The Leopard,” Alain Delon pays the Salina nephew of that name.