If you’ve been pining for a bit of Neapolitan sunshine during lockdown, you might have turned to Elena Ferrante’s hugely popular novels My Brilliant Friend. The first season of the TV adaptations aired to much acclaim, and the good news is that season two is even better.
It’s always a risk adapting a novel that so many readers have adored – each one of them has built a world in their mind, carving out the way the characters look and how they interact, what their homes look and feel like, how they navigate the complex world they’ve been placed in. And this will be particularly true for Ferrante’s beautiful and vivid writing. So, Saverio Constanza has his work cut out turning this captivating story into a piece of TV that fans will love just as much as the original stories.
For those who have read the Neapolitan Quartet, it won’t surprise you that this show moves at a languid pace. The tale is told in retrospect, as 60-year-old author Elena learns that her childhood friend Lila has disappeared, taking with her all her clothes, and leaving behind destroyed family photos. In the first season we meet young Elena (then nicknamed Lenù) and Lila, who live in the poor outskirts of Naples. They’re both sharp and intelligent, united by their mutual brightness, and we grow with them throughout the two seasons, through childhood, teenage years and finally into adulthood.
It’s a stunning and emotionally enchanting story of female friendship, through its highs and lows, whilst painting a portrait of Italy during a period of huge change.
Love a literary adaptation? So do we
In The Guardian Rebecca Nicholson says this series is “excellent on the complicated nature of female friendships and how they can turn on competition and admiration, particularly when the playing field is not level and never will be.” The Rolling Stone’s Lara Zarum appreciates how the series “communicates between glances what would take pages of inner monologue to express,” saying “It’s a testament to the show’s feat of world-building, and the masterful efforts of its actors, that this wordless broadcasting of emotion completely clicks.” And not only is it emotionally intelligent, but it’s beautiful too. The Sunday Times Victoria Segal says the show “looked as if it had been painted in delicious watercolours and Old Master oils: ice-creamy pink-and-green street signs flashing past a bus; muddy drapes and velvets in the luxurious flat.”
First shown June 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.