I Am Love

I Am Love

Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Release date: September 13th, 2010
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 114 minutes

Original language: Italian with English subtitles

Writer & director: Luca Guandagnino
Produces: Carlo Antonelli
Composer: John Adams

Cast: Tilda Swinton, Edoardo Gabbriellini, Flavio Parenti, Alba Rohrwacher, Pippo Delbono

Italians are often known, however stereotypically, for their passion, and it is in passion that I Am Love revels.

Emma (Swinton) is the silent wife in a haute bourgeoisie Milan family. She is kept in silk and jewels by her authoritative husband (Delbono), but stripped of her individuality, her nationality “when I moved to Milan, I learned to be Italian”, and even her Russian name. Her life revolves around her grown-up children, dinner parties, and running the house, as cold and as sterile as the winter setting in.

I Am Love

With her son Edo (Parenti) preparing to marry, and her daughter Elisabetta (Rohrwacher) is leaving Italy for London to go to university, Emma’s home, and life, seems to be declining into stagnancy. When a chance meeting with a local chef Antonio (Gabbriellini), a friend and business partner of Edo’s, ignites her passion and love for life, Emma must make decisions that could rock her life, and the lives of her family, forever.

As the title of the film might suggest, the central theme of I Am Love is love. The film explores different kinds of love, from familial, to maternal, to erotic, and how these effect people’s lives. Of course, matters of the heart and matters of the family are never so simple, and combining the two Guandagnino creates a tense, family-based melodrama founded on secrets.

I Am Love

How would patriarchal Tancredi react if he knew his daughter had fallen in love with another woman? How would Edo behave if he knew his mother was having an affair with one of his friends? The conflict of the script is based on if and when these secrets will come out, as the carefully orchestrated lives of the Recchi family begin to crumble.

The plot takes a while to gain momentum, and the ending feels a bit unwieldy, but similarly, Emma is a woman on the brink, understandably unable to draw neat conclusions for herself. Visually, I Am Love is beautiful. Every scene is lush, carefully designed and self-indulgent by Yorick Le Saux. The seduction of Emma by Antonio takes place over a lunch, her sense stoked by a dish of prawns, and it is love at first bite.

I Am Love

As Emma and Antonio first make love in the countryside, the macro shots of insects buzzing into flowers tips over into ridiculousness, but somehow it still fits, as though the lust-crazed woman accidentally shoplifting as she chases her sensitive, beefcake lover around San Remo wasn’t romantic-fiction cliché enough. He can fulfil her sexually, cook for her, and provide her with a country escape from her repressive city life. That’s almost as clichéd as her blooming with the seasons.

The attention to detail is staggering; the close-up food porn shots ramped up until we too are over-ripened with senses. I Am Love is more than a movie, it’s a piece of art, overblown and operatic. An original score by John Adams creates a richness, adding to the immersive nature of the film.


  • Audio Commentary
  • Interviews with Cast & Crew (62:00)
  • Moments on Set (14:00)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:55)

Swinton undeniably grounds I Am Love, Guandagnino wrote the film for her specifically. She plays Emma with subtlety; the Oedipal vibe isn’t overplayed, her reaction to her daughter’s lesbianism is an intake of breath and a widening of the eyes, one of human curiosity from someone whose gilded home has been their prison.

I Am Love

Every character, though, is written and played with depth. From the knowing nod between Emma and Betta in the closing scenes, to Emma and Ida’s friendship, culminating in the fiercest hug cinema must have seen for a while, which was genuinely touching as a bond in which so much must go unsaid.

Melodramatic and exaggerated, I Am Love will be too much for some, but if you want to be indulged, this is the film for you. It’s not perfect, but its visuals make up for it.

About Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor

Frances likes words and pictures, regardless of media. She finds great comfort and escape in film, and is attracted to anything character-driven with a strong story. Through these stories, she will find meaning in the world. Three movies that Frances thinks are really good for this are You and Me and Everyone We Know (Miranda July), I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (Chan-Wook Park), and How I Ended This Summer (Alexei Popogrebsky).

When Frances grows up, she would like to write words and make pictures and have cool people recognise her on the street and tell her that they really enjoy her work.

She can be found overreacting and over-caffeinated on Twitter @penny_face, a childhood moniker from her grandmother owing to her gloriously round face.