My Brilliant Friend Episode 2.02: “The Body” Review

“She [Lila] didn’t want to become like our mothers, neighbours, and relatives, who looked like they had lost their female features. They had been eaten away by the bodies of husbands, fathers, brothers, whom they ended up resembling.”

Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) stands in the midst of a revolving, yelling, cacophonous crowd. She exists in the centre, but is somehow utterly invisible, lost in a sudden realization of a life that she may be facing and a life Lila (Gaia Girace) is struggling to escape from. There is something about those moments where suddenly the clash between the vastness and intimacy of life overwhelms our understanding of life itself. We go from existing on a day to day basis, with some aspirations and apprehensions about our future to suddenly thinking of what it means to be lost within life itself.

The idea of the body, the title of the episode, is dominant in this story’s tenth chapter. It is about the creation of a new body through sex, rape, and pregnancy. It is about the violation of the body through rape and pregnancy. It is about the exploitation of the body through rape, pregnancy, and ownership. It is about the livability of a body through happiness, flourishing, and sex. It is about the decay and destruction of a body through death.

Lila is desperate in her desires to escape her terrifying, abusive relationship to Stefano (Giovanni Amura). It is a relationship whose abuse is entrenched into the societal acceptance of patriarchy and the violence that accompanies it. She is a body to their relationship, all the independence and free will is supposed to be his. She rebels in a way that is not accepted by others, and confuses even Elena before she realizes what life Lila is trying to escape.

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“Everyone has to see me,” Lila declares to Elena at the beginning of the episode, as she walks through the village. Even when she uses her body in a way that she feels can gain her some sense of freedom, it is still viewed by those around her as an object. Men who must have known her since she was a child now ogle her as a body and not a being. Even at the end of that brief mission, she realizes that her image is being used against her will to define a partnership that has no place for her or her voice.

Elena, forced into a car ride with Stefano by her parents, is at first reluctant to give any sort of time of day to the man abusing her best friend. As he speaks, in honesty, in a complete and unrepentant adoption of misogyny, Elena lowers her guard a bit. That the first time she hears a man being openly honest is a man who doesn’t believe in her equity of voice and who commits abuse on a nightly and daily basis, is tragic. That it even momentarily impacts her relationship with Lila is not lost on either of them. She realizes eventually what Lila is trying to escape, wondering perhaps if she will find her own fate tied or if she can escape it entirely.

The original divide between Elena and Lila, that of the former’s access to higher education and the latter’s barriers preventing her from accessing it, continues to be a subtle undercurrent between their relationship. Friendship, and such a close friendship at that, is never easy to form and much more difficult to maintain. The bet made between the two friends over Stefano’s future actions is centred on just that divide. If Elena won, then Lila would enroll in a private academy and not just enroll, but outperform Lila. If Lila won, then Elena would have to score top marks, nothing less. As Lila sits on that beach at the episode’s close, uttering the news of her pregnancy with a genuine despondency, she wonders if that window, this other avenue for her escape, has now been closed.

 

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