Monday, November 19, 2018

REVIEW: 'My Brilliant Friend' - Elena and Lila Fight for More Opportunities in Their Lives in 'The Money'

HBO's My Brilliant Friend - Episode 1.02 "The Money"

As fourth grade draws to an end, Elena and Lila fight with their families for the chance to continue their education. Later, a trip out of town becomes a day Elena will never forget, and a death changes things in the neighborhood forever.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of HBO's My Brilliant Friend.

"The Money" was written by Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci & Saverio Costanzo and directed by Saverio Costanzo

Money and education can open up so many possibilities for Elena and Lila. And yet, it is a perpetual fight for both of them to have access to those basic things. The premiere ended on the terrifying note of them going to confront Don Achille about their missing dolls. It was absolutely foolish. But it doesn't end in disaster for either of them. Sure, he views his charitable gift of money as a reminder of his generosity and his expectation for them to continue to appreciate him in the future. But it eventually opens up Elena and Lila's world with literature. They are able to buy Little Women. That's the novel that inspires them with what's possible in this world. It doesn't matter that they come from poor families. Instead, it's possible to write a book that allows them to give back to their families for all the sacrifices and struggles they've endured. They see a future for themselves. This moment inspires their love of reading and writing. Lila even writes a book here and Elena champions it as a great piece of work. Even the older version of the character reminisces about how honest and pure the voice of the words was. That continues to prove just how smart and capable Lila is even at a young age. And yet, Elena is the one who is allowed to continue her schooling. Lila is not. It once again breaks down according to the economics of their region and the gender expectations for these young girls. Neither of their families want to continue paying for school. They see now as the time for them to pick up a trade and start contributing to the family. For Elena, she's the eldest. She has to set a standard for her younger siblings. She has to help the family to ensure that her siblings could have the potential for more if she works hard enough. That stands in contrast to Lila who is a middle child. The teacher is more than willing to fight on her behalf to try to convince her parents to let her take this test to advance to middle school. And yet, her father refuses to change his mind. He's not going to do something special for his daughter when he didn't want to do so for his son. Lila's brother is willing to support her education as well. Instead, that only leads to further abuse. When Lila stands up to her father, she suffers a broken arm. That's absolutely horrifying. It shows just how oppressive this society actually is. It's intimidation that works as well. Elena takes this test and passes. Lila doesn't. That means this friendship could be broken up because of the opportunities that each now have for themselves. Lila is the brightest girl in her class. And yet, the teacher is keenly aware that she should give up all hope for her because her family refuses to listen to reason. It's disappointing but her time is better spent on the young girls who can still have these opportunities in their lives. Elena has been a follower of whatever Lila wants for so long. She is willing to skip school and escape to the sea just because Lila suggests it. They then turn around and return home without seeing the sea simply because it's what Lila wants to do. Elena explains that she never really feels control over her own actions. She is inspired by Lila because she holds strong to her convictions. Right now, it's just horrifying because they both face extreme punishment upon returning home. Both of their fathers hit them. And yet, Elena's is still willing to support her dreams while Lila's is too stuck in his own ways. Moreover, the hour ends with the murder of Don Achille. That is bound to shake up this neighborhood in unexpected ways. No one knows what the fallout will be. No one even knows what actually happened. Lila can speak with such confidence about the details of this brutal murder. It's just her fanciful imagination though. That is so powerful and believable. And yet, it could lead to a lot of danger for her if she keeps speaking her mind about what could have happened. A scapegoat already seems to be found for this crime. Elena and Lila are constantly pushing back against societal expectations. But anything can happen in response to that as well.