TV Worth Your Time: My Brilliant Friend
When I first read My Brilliant Friend I was on an extended trip visiting my family in South East Asia. I’ll never forget ploughing to the end of book one and then desperately taking cabs around a sweaty, congested Bangkok trying to find book two. It’s possible that no set of novels has ever compelled me more. Reading them became a compulsive exercise, one in which I read whole chapters out loud to my boyfriend and called my friends (everyone was reading them) to talk about scenes that reminded me of our friendships. Years later, I still find myself thinking about Lila and Lenu, applying their complicated love to the loves of my life. The mix of passion, jealousy, sensuality, and competitiveness is propulsive and familiar to any person with complicated, life-long friendships.
I have been anxiously awaiting the HBO series based on four Neapolitan Novels (which function, in many ways, as one large literary work). There were months of teases, my favorite of which was a New York Times article about the casting call for the show which took place in Naples, complete with photos of the long lines of girls preening while they waited for their chance to embody the precocious heroines.
Tonally, the episodes capture these beloved stories ingeniously. The opening shots of the stifling post-war neighborhood which Lenu and Lila spend the books escaping from and being inextricably tied to, capture the drab dusty buildings I pictured in my mind down to the most minuscule of details. Elena Ferrante, the reclusive author who wrote the original novels, had a heavy hand in creating this visual representation of her work. My Brilliant Friend will make you laugh and cry, but more importantly, it will make you call that complicated, elusive friend you never stop thinking about. We all have someone who fascinated and repulsed us as we came of age and Ferrante froze that universal narrative in amber for generations to come.