Star rating – 6/10
This is a stylish tale of the fortunes of a wealthy Milanese family following the death of the elderly industrial magnate Edoardo Recchi Sr. He unexpectedly leaves his fortune and factory jointly to his son, Tancredi, and one his grandsons, the young Edoardo Jr, known as Edo.
The setting of the film’s opening is Milan in the snow at Christmas, and shows us the lavish entertaining of the Recchi family in their perfect and beautiful mansion. Tancredi’s Russian wife Emma, played superbly by the ever impressive Tilda Swinton, has everything under control. She has a lovely rapport with the many servants in her household, is impeccably dressed for every occasion, and seems to be a caring and compassionate mother to her children. Everything is just so.
We get a taste of her background in Russia, before Tancredi whisked her away to a new life with a new name in Italy, and it feels unsettling, as evidenced by her brief flashbacks and apparent nightmares, although the reasons for this are never really fleshed out satisfactorily. She seems to cope with her life extremely well - there is a very touching scene between her and her art student daughter, Betta, who feels able to come out as having a relationship with a woman to her mother, but unable to tell anyone else in the family.
The cat is thrown amongst the pigeons in this charming and exquisite picture of wealthy Milanese domestic bliss, as of course it must inevitably be, when Emma falls for her son Edo’s handsome young chef friend Antonio. The romance between them is sensitively done, and the inevitable catastrophe ensues.
My problem with the film is that, beautifully shot and located as it is, nothing really much happens for ages. It feels a bit too slow to get going, and then when we get to the heart of the action every scene is accompanied by such a dramatic and overblown score that it feels completely false. Such as when Emma and Antonio are making love in the hills surrounding Milan at the remote farm where he is setting up his own restaurant with Edo, the fanfares are so great you really do expect a choir of angels to come and accompany them in their moment of bliss.
Swinton is excellent in the film, and it is a feast to watch with its lavish and beautiful settings, but it could have done with a bit more characterisation and storyline, and a bit less of the dramatic score to accompany it.