My Brilliant Friend Season 3

By Joanna Langfield

There have been some excellent series lately. And then there’s been My Brilliant Friend.

Based on the Elena Ferrante Neopolitan novels, this is a glorious piece of profound, searing beauty.

At the core of this intimate and vast story is the symbiotic relationship between two girls, growing and coming of age in 1950’s Naples, Italy. Lila and Lenu seem to be very different, but their ties bind, for better or worse, through marriages, motherhood, poverty, gang violence, political upheavals as well as personal ones. Of course, there have been many epics centering on female friendship, but rarely have they been written with such precise ambition and understanding.

The first two seasons of the superb film adaptation are available to stream (which I hope you will) and now, so, too is the version of the third book, subtitled “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”. Taking us into the 1970’s, an era of great unrest, governmentally and socially, we see both women focus in on what they assume to be their paths in life. The second episode, as Lila deals with her fate as a meat processing worker, is so stunning, I literally had to stop from streaming onto the next one, needing, myself, to process what I had just seen. Lenu, finishing her education and post publication of her first book, is about to marry a professor, providing her with the opportunity to establish a life in Florence. By the end of this chapter, both women, in the shadow of the female liberation movement, accept surprising strengths in themselves.

Lovingly produced and directed, the show is as much a treat for our senses as it is an impressive societal arc. We get to see Italy, after all, in all her passionate splendor. There are some subtle, but appreciated nods to the fashions of the times. And then there are the performances, all excellent, anchored by the remarkable Margherita Mazzucco and Gaia Girace, who make the brilliant Lenu and Lila, all the more brilliant in our memories.