My Brilliant Friend Episode 3.04: “Cold War” Review

Writers are often told to write what we know. What we see before us. The people we encounter. The places we walk through on the road to wherever we’re going. There is some wisdom to this advice. Writing is difficult, incredibly difficult, and not just in terms of plot and character and setting. But difficult in the construction of words to convey the thoughts and feelings unspooling in your mind, body, and soul. So it makes some sense to start with what you know the best. To write the things, people, and places we know with the greatest intimacy. But while it is important to be able to write what you know, it is arguably more important to know who you are when you write.

At her core, Elena (Margherita Mazzucco) doesn’t know who she is. A part of her wants to embrace the rebellions against traditions old, stale, and crumbling with dust. It’s in her writing and her observations about the society around her. But it’s one thing to write about something or to observe a social truth around you. It’s a different thing entirely to incorporate it into how you exist within yourself. And part of Elena’s reality is that she just hasn’t had to rebel against those traditions as often in her actual life and thus it’s easier for her to fall into the thralls of those traditions before they come crumbling apart around her. 

The morning of her wedding, she demands that Pietro (Matteo Cecchi) take her to get contraceptives but he refuses, pushing her to wait until after the wedding. In a wedding the audience can sense should not be happening, that heated argument in the car breaks apart into an atmosphere where the warmth of an Italian wedding is really nowhere to be found. Even Elena finds more joy in connecting with intellectuals at her surprise reception than in the company of her husband—a husband who embodied those very traditions she had been taught to accept. Traditions that ultimately gave her a sense of security. But now that security is gone and Elena is floundering.

Elena and Pietro’s marriage crumbles apart with remarkable efficiency but in that efficiency My Brilliant Friend never loses sight of character. Pietro is very much the type of man we would expect him to be, the kind of man who is ubiquitous in a season deeply interested in what people profess to believe in and what they actually do. Pietro professes ideals of liberation and revolution. But at no point does he bother to lift a finger and take care of his own children. Elena is visibly exhausted to the point where she can’t stand up straight and he finds a way to blame her for their daughter’s incessant crying. The security is gone and Elena flounders.

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It was a prison, marriage, she tells herself in a melancholic realization of where her life had gone. Lila (Gaia Girace) had been brave, Lila had escaped her awful marriage and had found the freedom she had been aching for. And Elena feels stuck, stuck in this role of wife and mother. She had studied, she tells herself, she had expelled such a herculean amount of effort to get to a place and after having briefly found it, it was no longer there. 

It’s in her writing, this mess of self, and a heartbroken, tearful Lila tells her as much. “It’s not you,” she says before tears overtake her. But while Lila is sobbing because she knows that, in some small part, she is breaking her best friend’s heart, Elena is crying because a part of her can feel the truth in that. The truth that in her writing there is a devastation and in that devastation is a writer who can find so much but is bereft because she can’t find herself.

Best Quotes:

– “One shouldn’t do things only because others do them.”

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“We do it all the time.”
– “It’s like you fabricated your own torment.”

– “Sex and intimacy can be different things.”
– “I couldn’t find anything that went past ten lifeless pages.”

– “I want you to do better.”

How Many Times Did I Cry/Tear Up In This Episode: 3

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Notes:

– Lila hasn’t slapped any of her bougie college student associates so 

– “You can write a book while you’re expecting!” Someone slap Pietro for me, thanks

– Immacolata’s (Anna Rita Vitolo) expression of pride that her daughter married upwards broke my heart

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– The shot of Elena with Florence in the background is beautiful 

– Oral sex in an open window? Overlooking an Italian plaza? Adding that to my bucket list

– My writing felt dispassionate, bereft, and detached before I came out to myself and when I started to find some peace as an openly queer person, I found my writing bolder, more truthful, more alive.



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