Lots of good stuff about Maria Sole Tognazzi’s ‘Io E Lei’, but IMO, TLI (Too Little Information).
Marina and Federica (Sabrina Ferilli and Margherita Buy) are practically an old married couple, together for five years, bickering about the cat on the couch, wondering what to have for dinner, and fussing about each others’ health and safety.
Not so different from watching a movie about the life I share with my husband, and that would make a pretty boring movie. So was this story about two women in a committed monogamous (in theory) relationship boring, or was it interesting with the same-sex twist, or would have been interesting even with a heterosexual couple.
I’m not sure.
I can say with certainty that it’s no ball of fire, this film, but it’s not uninteresting either. I’m pretty sure this is what director Maria Sole Tognazzi wants us to take from Io E Lei, that lesbians are just like us, but I didn’t need a movie to explain that to me. Maybe Italians did?
Marina is a former B list actress that’s gotten bored with her career and has bought a restaurant, out of the closet at a young age and comfortable in her own skin. Federica, in contrast has lived most of her life in heterosexual relationships, an architect with an ex-husband and a grown son. “I’m not a lesbian”, she tells Marina, and the disdainful accent on the word lesbian is obvious. “You are the first woman I was ever attracted to.”
When a magazine article about Marina comes out that hints about their relationship (one that they don’t try to hide in their day-to-day life, by the way), and then Marina gets offered a part in a movie and Federica thinks, “Oh no! More publicity!”, their happy homelife gets a little icy. I haven’t decided yet whether Federica really does love her privacy, and that’s why she’s freaking out, or if she’s just not gay, and doesn’t want to be identified that way. Throughout the movie it’s never obvious which team she’ll end up playing for, and I have the feeling that the one she’s on at the end of the movie is not the end of the story.
I compare it to the French film, Blue Is The Warmest Color, about a young girl in her first same-sex relationship, and pondering the things that make it a more engaging story, I suppose it comes down to character development. Director Abdellatif Kechiche really takes us inside of the head of the girls, and I get that Maria Sole is telling a whole different story with two, normal, middle-aged women, but at the end of Io E Lei, I have to say it; I don’t understand Federica or Marina at all.
I didn’t love Io E Lei. I didn’t hate Io E Lei. I didn’t need Io E Lei. I can think of about a dozen Lifetime Movies that have told this same story (albeit without the excellent acting by Margherita Buy and Sabrina Ferilli, probably the best I’ve ever seen from Ferilli). If this movie is good for Italy, then good for you, Maria Sole, but I don’t know that American audiences will find anything very original here.