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New Ways of Seeing: My Brilliant Friend

From Amy Dotson, NWFC Director and PAM Curator, Film & New Media

My Brilliant Friend
Created by Elena Ferrente; Series Creator Saverio Costanzo
Available on HBO

I first read—and devoured—all 1600+ pages of Elena Ferrante’s coming of age series The Neapolitan Novels after an Italian friend tipped me off to the artistic mystery that surrounds her true identity. That story is amazing in its own right, so check it out—but let’s get back to the tale at hand:

Following two girls growing up in post-World War II Naples, this beautiful and turbulent friendship spans from their early days through their adulthood navigating themselves, each other, and the worlds they find themselves navigating. At once intertwined and independent, the book fully immerses you and transports you into their relationship in a way that is the closest a set of novels has come for me to mimicking VR.

So, it was with a combination of both with incredible angst and unnatural excitement that once it was announced HBO would be bringing it to the big screen, I waited to see what would come next. Would it get the Hollywood treatment? Or lose its wonder?  And the good news is, the adaptation did neither—and the original Italian dialect and authenticity was kept throughout. The series—now in season two, with season three already set for 2021—shines a spotlight two young girls whose family, friends, and community never expected them to amount to much. But these characters—and their creator—knew better than to underestimate the power of friendship, perseverance, secrets, and “pizzico di grinta” (true grit).