Based on the international best-selling novel by Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend is a series about legacy. Legacy can be a difficult thing to reflect upon and even harder to define. Italian history has a vast and complex interplay between politics and landscape, that has defined its people and its culture for millennia. The last 60 years however have seen a monumental shift. Two girls are the centre for us of this vast shift. We live inside the aspirations, expectations and poverty of the Naples outskirts.
The series begin with a disappeared woman. Her best friend then imagines a return to the Italy of her youth. The girls are reunited in youth. Elena (played with delicate charm by Elisabetta De Palo) is from a middle class family. Her friend Raffaella ( played with guts by Gaia Girace) is poor but strong and clever. They meet at primary school. Their life is dictated on by the local hood Don Achille. Rough and rowdy boys and the local political shifts of the period.
Clocking in at 400 hours, I have simplified the plot but the key to this series success (and it is very good) is its study of friendship. A subject that reveals more about those on the outside of the relationship then those on the inside of it. MY BRILLIANT FRIEND excels at unpicking the way society is contrasted in friendships. Haves and have not’s. Conservatives and Liberals. Hope, need, expectation and realisation collide here. Powerful scenes are emotive but also keep you compelled because they never shift to complacency and conformity. The intertexuality of the piece, Italian social theory and the works of the neo realists have all defused here. Though it lacks some of the immediacy of the latter and dilutes the former often, its is an intense experience. Though some claim the books a modern masterpiece, I would say this first series is almost a modern classic that will hold up for future generations.