My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name (Series 2) (DVD)

Saverio Costanzo

 
My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name (Series 2) (DVD)
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My Brilliant Friend: The Story of a New Name (Series 2) (DVD)

Saverio Costanzo

Directed by Saverio Costanzo and based on the internationally bestselling Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante , the critically acclaimed global smash hit returns for a second series.

Lila and Elena are sixteen. Lila is just married, but worries that she has lost her identity in taking her husbands name. Elena is a model student, but has realised that she is not happy, either in or outside of her neighbourhood.

During a holiday in Ischia, the two girls reunite with their childhood acquaintance Nino Sarratore, now a university student with great prospects. The encounter will forever change the nature of their bond, propelling the girls onto two completely contrasting paths. Lila becomes a skillful sales assistant in an elegant shoe shop in central Naples; while Elena conscientiously continues her studies, preparing to leave town and go to University in Pisa.

This second series of My Brilliant Friend follows the two girls friendship in this new chapter of their lives, as their youthful vitality blooms and their close connection is threatened, as the girls follow, lose and find each other again.

Review

Season two of the television adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels picks up where the first ended – at Lila’s wedding and its aftermath. Now sixteen, the brilliant friends’ lives are more complex, and Gaia Girace as Lila and Margherita Mazzucco as Elena deliver performances that are psychologically richer and more satisfying. The Story of a New Name covers five years – as they leave childhood well and truly behind – up to Elena’s university graduation and her first publishing success, and Lila’s changing fortunes in their burgeoning corner of Naples.

I enjoyed the first season of this adaptation very much, but I really, really love this second one. Italy in the 1960s is in the grip of a huge economic boom. In the neighbourhood, buildings go up, new shops open. The Story of a New Name evokes the glamour of this moment in Italian history – the period production design and costumes are gorgeous; the Italian pop music soundtrack inspired. Rapid development brings social change – in classrooms, at worksites, on the streets. And for Lila and Elena, too, everything personal is also political. Both fight becoming like the neighbourhood’s women – with lives eaten up by men and their demands, their violent sense of ownership.

Series creator Saverio Costanzo directs six of the eight episodes, but brilliant Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher (Happy as Lazzaro) directs two pivotal ones. She brings an immersive emotional realism to the material, offering new insight into Lila and Elena’s loyal yet competitive bond. Each wants some of what the other has. I know a lot of Ferrante fans have avoided this series, nervous that any visual imagining can only fail to capture the intensity of the novels. I understand this trepidation, but this adaptation is its own entity, and quite a magnificent one. Please give it a go. I have a strong feeling, based on season two, that it will only get better and better.


Joanna Di Mattia works as a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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