It’s a brilliantly dangerous gathering: a wrong word can cause disaster, especially when Pietro’s modern atheism clashes with the Greco’s conservative Christianity. Towards the end of the scene, Elena is struck with a nightmarish vision of being throttled by all of them. Is she strangled by the marriage, by its institution maybe? Or perhaps it’s also the conflation of the unstuck past with a rapidly evolving present.
Pietro (Matteo Cecchi, left) faces off against the Greco family. Photo: Sky
But there’s at least one part of her ambivalent past that Elena never sees as a noose, and that’s her childhood friend Lila (Gaia Girace). After being absent for episode one, Lila reappears in a weak, sweaty and bedbound version of herself. She makes Elena promise something that shouldn’t be promised, especially in the light of the upcoming nuptials. Afterwards, Lila elaborates on recent events and the image of her face gradually dissolves into a flashback.
Unlike Elena, Lila continues to avoid her traumatising past as much as possible. She escaped her abusive marriage and moved to a small apartment, working under squalid conditions in a sausage factory. ‘I erased the past and the past erased me,’ she says to Elena, but that past returns to her with a gradual and devastating grip.
Firstly, there’s her insecure and irritating boss Bruno (Francesco Russo) – the same Bruno that accompanied her, Elena and Nino (Francesco Serpico) to Ischia in season two. Then there’s her flatmate Enzo, who’s loved Lila since selling vegetables to her as a child. They have a curious relationship, not led by sex but by care and affection. It even sparks, albeit briefly, into a hand-grazing suggestion of romance (go, Enzo!). Is she merely using Enzo’s love as a means for shelter and protection? That might've been the initial intention, but maybe things are changing.
Lila (Gaia Girace) working in the sausage factory. Photo: Sky
The politically charged Pasquale (Eduardo Scarpetta) re-enters their lives, now a devoted communist and section secretary to the cause. He’s another man who’s held affection for Lila, even asking her out during their teenage years. Also returning is Nadia (Giorgia Gargano), Nino’s ex, who’s an outspoken part of this young political group.
Their politics mingle with Lila’s own, but from a very different perspective. Most of these left-wing thinkers are well-off megaphones for a working class they have little experience of. In a fiery speech, Lila makes that clear. And you endure the gruelling factory experiences Lila describes, punctuated by sexual advances and assaults that she never, ever tolerates. How can these well-meaning, educated communists, living in relative luxury, possibly understand her story from their scarlet towers?
Though the year isn’t specified, this looks to be the trigger for Italy’s Hot Autumn of 1969 (starting the infamous Years of Lead): one of the lengthiest worker strikes in history.
And then there's the antithesis: the fascist cause, where another shadow from Lila’s past re-emerges. Like Elena’s imagined strangulation, Lila endures a much stronger ordeal as she realises her sense of independence is flawed.
The Fever is almost entirely focused on Lila, so it’s no surprise that this is one of Girace’s strongest hours yet. Her performance is often close to the boil, rightly recalcitrant and argumentative, but here she burns the screen with her upsetting, apoplectic fury. Lila’s past finds and recaptures her; she tears herself apart, and you tear up with her.
My Brilliant Friend season 3 continues on Thursdays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic. All episodes are available to watch on-demand on Sky and NOW.
|What||My Brilliant Friend, season 3 episode 2, Sky Atlantic review|
17 Mar 22 – 17 Mar 23, ON SKY ATLANTIC
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