Sunday, November 25, 2018

REVIEW: 'My Brilliant Friend' - Changes Hit Elena and Lila as They Go Through the Teenage Years in 'The Metamorphosis'

HBO's My Brilliant Friend - Episode 1.03 "The Metamorphosis"

Now a teenager, Elena grapples with the onset of puberty, her studies and her friendship with Lila, who now works in her family's shoe-repair store. After a library awards ceremony reveals what Lila has been keeping secret, Elena learns what her friend's grand plans might be. As the girls' encounters with the opposite sex become more frequent, Lila takes a stand against the dangerous Solara brothers.

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

Access to an education was the issue that seemed primed to tear Elena and Lila's friendship apart. Elena had the opportunity to continue hers with middle school while Lila was forced to start work at the family business. And now, the show moves ahead in time to when Elena is completing her studies in middle school. It's a transformational time for the human body as well. Elena and Lila are going through changes. The casting department did a fantastic job in finding actresses who could take over the roles of Elena and Lila from their younger counterparts while still having that fantastic chemistry with each other. Of course, this hour also highlights how friendship can be weird at times. In their youth, Elena and Lila promised that nothing would ever break them apart. They had plans to write a novel together and earn enough money to pull their entire families out of poverty. And now, they can go months without seeing each other at all. In fact, Elena is horrified by the changes to her body. It's a complete mystery to her that only makes her feel insecure. Moreover, she no longer has Lila's complete attention. She is distracted by her job and her secret projects. Whenever Elena gets a taste of what Lila has been up to, it is suddenly so exciting for her. When she discovers that Lila has been visiting the library, it opens Elena's world up once more. It's enough to get her passionate about Latin. She entered middle school because she was one of the brightest students in her class. Oliviero passionately fought for both girls to continue their education. She is still the fiercest advocate for both of them. She feels a little responsibility for Elena's growing mind. To her, it's validation of the work that she does as a teacher. She helped develop a truly genuine and inspiring young student. She gave up hope with Lila. And yet, she still yearns for what could have been. Moreover, Lila is still keeping up with her studies. She is just doing so in secret. She is not receiving any kind of formal education. She is teaching herself. She is learning Latin and able to help Elena understand the language. That appears to be the entire basis for the education available to these students as well. Whenever they enter a new school, they are asked to learn a new language. In middle school, it is Latin. In high school, it is Greek. That's the next opportunity for Elena. She still has access to an education. Her parents are growing even more strict with her though. Their demands are even more pressing because of the financial strain her schooling is putting on the family. With all of this being done now, they expect it all to pay off in the future with her having access to an incredible job that will support the rest of the family. That's a lot of pressure for someone who wants to indulge the wildest impulses that Lila inspires within her.

Schooling has been such a strong aspect of the show so far. However, burgeoning sexuality and gender politics of the region and time are vital as well. Elena and Lila were both fighting against norms of their society. They were pushing back. They faced consequences for their actions as well. They are now seeing the world through a new perspective. Lila is able to open Elena's eyes to the true horrors of the Solaras brothers calling beautiful girls into their car and driving off. It's not some grand romantic gesture that any young girl would be lucky to have. It's an intimidating tactic because these young men feel entitled to get whatever they want. They view women as nothing more than sexual objects who are teasing them with any kind of decision they make. They think it's all in service of their male ego. It's not. And yet, this is the kind of mentality that is allowed to exist and thrive for a long time. When Ada's brother fights the men who have hurt her, it leads to an even more pronounced fight that no one breaks up at all. The community just allows this to happen because no one wishes to go against the status quo. This is simply the world that everyone is currently operating in. It's depressing and isolating. Lila is the only one willing to admit just how horrifying it actually is. She is pleading with her friends to see the same dangers. But they are all blind to it. Lila is the only one walking around with a knife for her own protection. She doesn't want anything to get in the way of her burgeoning success of creating a traveling shoe with her brother, Rino. She aspires to so much more. She has given her family access to books and an appreciation for reading. She makes an impact no matter where she goes. And yet, Elena is starting to realize just how dangerous and malicious her best friend can be. The Solaras brothers eventually turn their attention onto the two of them. Lila fights back because she doesn't wish to be abused. She never wants that again in her life. That just gets Elena to think about how Lila is absolutely capable of killing someone. She may have already done so. As such, that will only add to the confusion for the friends as they continue to go through puberty.