The result of a decade-long collaboration between actress Tilda Swinton and filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, I Am Love is a lush, critically acclaimed festival favorite. Swinton produced and stars as Emma Recchi, the Russian-born wife of a wealthy Italian industrialist. In Milan near the turn of the millennium, Emma has striven to become Italian, the very picture of a sophisticated wife and doting mother. When the family patriarch confoundingly names both Emma’s husband and eldest son as his successors in the family business, cracks begin to appear in their highly polished veneer.
Emma is shocked by multiple revelations: first, Emma’s daughter, Betta (Alba Rohrwacher), comes out to her mother as a lesbian. Then Emma realizes she’s fallen hopelessly in love with her son’s friend Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a young chef, and they have a passionate affair, stealing moments together in the Italian countryside.
Swinton achieved international status with her starring role as the gender-bending protagonist in director Sally Potter’s Orlando (1992), based on the novel by Virginia Woolf. But her connection to queer roles and filmmakers began years earlier in films by a friend of hers, the gay English filmmaker Derek Jarman, to whom she was close until his death from AIDS complications in 1994. Despite her quarter century on screen, no one could accuse Swinton of falling prey to typecasting. Her roles in films have ranged wildly, from playing a mother of a gay young man in The Deep End (2001), a DNA replicant in the experimental Teknolust (2002), the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005), and her Academy Award-winning turn opposite George Clooney in Michael Clayton (2007).
Speaking with The Advocate, Swinton discussed the origin of I Am Love and the bond she shares with gays and lesbians.
I Am Love is now in theaters in select cities and will open in additional theaters July 2.