This season will lead into Italy’s infamous ‘Years of Lead’, a violent schism between fascists and communists. Episode one, Indecencies, plants the seeds of that 15-year conflict. Our chief character Elena Greco (Margherita Mazzucco) is on its precipice and embraces the left-hand side, attending student gatherings and admiring their passion.
The story picks up mere minutes after the conclusion of season two, where Elena’s in a bookshop promoting her first novel and her unrequited love Nino Sarratore (Francesco Serpico) suddenly appears and openly praises her. Despite the improbably fast climb to novelistic acclaim, it’s easy to believe Elena is one of those rare prodigies.
That payoff is needed after two seasons showing the strains of Elena's childhood. She persevered with paid education, while her less fortunate and much smarter best friend Lila Cerullo (Gaia Girace) submitted to the working-class patriarchy of their Neapolitan neighbourhood. Lila later left her husband to work in a sausage factory.
But Elena's authorial achievement, raising her profile into notoriety, comes at a price. Having written a novel with ‘racy’ chapters – set in Ischia, where she was sexually assaulted by Nino’s acidic father Donato (Emanuele Valentini) – she has to deal with the critics as well as readers who see the realities in the characters. There’s a scene where Elena cries over the phone to her charming fiancé Pietro (Matteo Cecchi) about a bad review, which reignites a guilty conscience from this critic.
Nino (Francesco Serpico) walking with Elena. Photo: Sky/HBO
Elena’s writing spreads to her hometown. For the meantime, she stays there with her consistently unchanging family – including her hilariously judgemental mother Imma (Annarita Vitolo). The town itself is gradually transforming for new capitalist interests, but the area’s still occupied by the same families. There’s no sign of Lila’s abusive ex, Stefano Carracci (Giovanni Amura), but Michele (Alessio Gallo) of the dominating Solara family re-enters Elena’s life.
With her short hair, new assertiveness and cigarette-smoking sense of chic, Elena clearly wants to outgrow her roots but can’t seem to leave them behind.
And where is Lila in all this? Indecencies is a rare episode where the recalcitrant and fiercely feministic young woman doesn’t appear (except in the cinefilm opening titles). But you sense her powerful presence like an emotional spectre in the minds of Elena, Nino, and even Michele.
Nino, in particular, is clearly still infatuated with Lila – dampening Elena’s spirits. This critic had some hope that Nino would disconnect from his toxic ways after his romcom gesture in the bookshop, but that’s wishful thinking. The closing scene of this episode shows the shocking extent of his behaviour, with an excellently scandalous twist.
Filmmaker Daniele Luchetti replaces Saverio Costanzo as series director. He captures the emotional spirit of My Brilliant Friend while appreciating that this is a new kind of story. Since the previous two seasons were essentially a teenage coming-of-age tale, the atmosphere shifts slightly for their adult lives.
Now, it’s the world that’s coming of age – though not quite, in some respects. Despite the glories of the sexual revolution, with pleasure enjoyed by women as much as men, episode one shows how men try to take advantage of this new liberated situation. Amorous presumptions grossly simmer around Elena after publishing her book, showing a different side to a time that’s often lauded. No doubt the rest of the series will provide even more startling and brilliant revelations.
My Brilliant Friend season 3 starts on Thursday 10 March at 9pm on Sky Atlantic. All 3 seasons are available to stream on NOW with an Entertainment Membership.
|What||My Brilliant Friend, season 3 episode 1, Sky Atlantic review|
10 Mar 22 – 10 Mar 23, ON SKY ATLANTIC
|Website||Click here for more information|