Take the disgraced Lila (Gaia Girace), who’s dismissed as a ‘slut’ and a ‘whore’ by her old neighbourhood for leaving the abusive Stefano (Giovanni Amura). He took a mistress, but isn’t treated with any vitriol – that's reserved only for Lila. And what about Gigliola (Rosaria Langellotto), who warmed up to the Solara boys from childhood? She’s now marrying the dark-eyed leader Michele (Alessio Gallo) – not out of love, but for affluence.
In earlier seasons, Gigliola was a rather annoying character: advantageous, argumentative, judgemental. When Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) visits Gigliola's handsome home, you see a different side: realising the path she’s taken and the impossibility of turning around. ‘Men only get married to have a faithful housemaid,’ she says, words that burn into Elena’s mind as she enters her own marriage to Pietro (Matteo Cecchi).
My Brilliant Friend shows that these attitudes continue like waves crashing and falling to shore. But maybe the evolution via revolution of the time helps calm those tides, making them less tremulous and the women more aware of their own potential.
In episode three, Elena continues to care for Lila and her fading illness – to the political scepticism of the aggressive Pasquale (Eduardo Scarpetta). For him, it’s prioritising the individual over the collective, the rich pulling favours for one and not for all.
Regardless, Elena takes Lila to several doctors. As always, Lila doesn’t make it easy – she even requests the Pill, which at this point is only prescribed to married women to ‘regulate’ their cycles. Despite the female conversations in favour of the contraceptive, the men feel intensely threatened.
She and Lila talk over these matters and more in front of a delectable blue sea with Vesuvius looming large and quiet in the background. Ivan Casalgrandi's gorgeous cinematography captures the alluring, Neapolitan colours so beautifully, it tempts us to make a holiday booking. However, Elena’s new duty of care returns her to that unspoken competition between the friends. She feels dominant now, and takes pleasure in that.
But My Brilliant Friend must submit to another of its regular motifs: breaking Lila and Elena apart. This critic often wonders why, why, why can’t they just stay together? Maybe meet for coffee every week and reminisce about the neighbourhood and talk about books. Unfortunately, that’s hardly the stuff of great drama. Their break-ups are achieved so passively: no soapy exits or melodramatic shouting matches. They just ghost each other.
Elena fends for herself in episode four, running a family while wanting to write another book. Pietro loses his pre-marriage charm, disinterested in Elena’s problems – only embracing her when sex is a possibility.
It’s delightful and liberating when she finally finds hours for herself and a typewriter. After suffering writer’s block, she decides to break free of her literary inhibitions – represented by her tongue touching the keys in a provocative close-up. You wonder what she’s concocting, whether it’ll be as scandalous as her first effort.
Despite finding a place at the leftist newspaper l'Unità, it’s in fiction where Elena's passions truly lie – not in being a wife or a mother or a faithful housemaid. Occasionally, she has to submit out of exhaustion. At one point, the series turns into a horror film as shadows from her past come to haunt her. But she achieves small victories, which might eventually expand to greater achievements.
My Brilliant Friend, season 3, continues Thursdays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic. All three seasons are available to stream on NOW with an Entertainment Membership.
|What||My Brilliant Friend, season 3, episode 3 & 4, Sky Atlantic review|
24 Mar 22 – 24 Mar 23, ON SKY ATLANTIC
|Website||Click here for more information|