A lot like love: My Brilliant Friend explores a lifetime of female friendship

2 April 2019

A lot like love: My Brilliant Friend explores a lifetime of female friendship

My Brilliant Friend (Season 1, 2018, comes to Showmax with new episodes every Saturday) is an adaptation of the first of Elena Ferrante’s four Neapolitan Novels, set in poverty-stricken 1950s Naples in Italy. It’s an exploration of the rivalry and camaraderie in female friendships and how the connection endures despite everything the outside world does to batter and fracture it.

My Brilliant Friend on Showmax

Here are our five favourite friendship moments from the show.

1. Courage: episode 1

It’s an attraction of opposites in some ways when pretty, diligent, good six-year-old Lenù (Elisa del Genio) becomes enchanted with the brilliant, wilful lower-class girl Lila (Ludovica Nasti), first because of her intelligence and then because of her courage. The first true step in their friendship happens in episode 1 when Lenù witnesses Lila’s defiance when she’s attacked by a loanshark’s son because of her cleverness. Seeing Lila stand up for herself gives Lenù the strength to come to Lila’s defence herself. The encounter ends badly for them both, but an epic friendship is born.

2. Imagination: episode 2

In episode 2, Lenù is directly warned that if she wants to make something of her life, Lila – who comes from such a poor background – will only drag her down. Instead, the two form a pact to write a novel together after spending every penny that they have together on a copy of Little Women (Louisa May Alcott, 1869), which they read to each other out loud. Lila trusts Lenù to keep their work safe, hiding it from her father. It’s Lila’s incredible skill at storytelling, love of language and turn of phrase that sparks a fire to write in generally mild Lenù that makes her determined to succeed and write herself.

3. Dedication: episode 3

In puberty, girls need a fast friend more than ever, even when the timing of their physical changes is out of sync. But in episode 3, Lila (now played by Gaia Girace) and Lenù (now played by Margherita Mazzucco) have been driven far apart by the difference in their social circumstances. But when Lenú is struggling with her Latin studies, Lila sets aside her considerable and justifiable jealousy to give her the advice she needs, based on her own passion for Latin. And when Lila finds out that she could teach Lenú, who is top of her class, something, it spurs her to study even harder and read even more from the library. The friendship holds so true that when a boy tries to steal from Lenú, Lila physically attacks and threatens to kill him.

4. Competition: episode 4

By episode 4, Lenù’s (Margherita Mazzucco) and Lila’s (Gaia Girace) beauty has the neighbourhood boys excited and Lila reminds her friend, “The more we know, the less we’re afraid”. Their power is not their beauty, which is so coveted, or their social standing, which is out of their control. Their power is in their intelligence. Even when Lenú notices what Lila seems to be blind to – that her friend’s charisma and attractiveness is about to cause a war between the men vying for her attention – it just feeds into their competitiveness. Their focus is, as always, more on each other than on a search for love and Lenú seems to want to score a boyfriend just so that she can tell Lila about it.

5. Trust: episode 8

Episode 8 has Lila and Lenú clearly seeing eye-to-eye over the important things in life – demonstrated not by all their wedding planning cooperation and case, but by Lenú trusting Lila to edit her book – the equivalent of giving your friend your baby to raise while you step back. The girls share a moment of incredible closeness before marriage, with Lenú bathing Lila, as Lila makes her promise to go to college. And Lenú helps her own brilliant friend by mediating between Lila and her mother-in-law in choosing a wedding dress with tact and diplomacy.

So it’s no wonder when everything goes sideways that the two can communicate an entire book’s worth of conversation with a shared look at the end of the season.

New episodes of My Brilliant Friend land on Showmax every Saturday, at the same time as the DStv broadcast.

Start watching now »

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