'My Brilliant Friend' Season 2 Episode 7 Review: An ode to motherhood, misunderstood yet persistent and powerful

If Ferrante's stories don't amaze you in the slightest bit, what form of cinema ever will?

'My Brilliant Friend' Season 2 Episode 7 Review: An ode to motherhood, misunderstood yet persistent and powerful
(HBO)
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Spoilers for 'My Brilliant Friend' Season 2 Episode 7 'Ghosts'

Elena Greco (Margherita Mazzucco) is now a hardworking, accomplished student at the University of Pisa. She also meets Franco Mari (Bruno Orlando), a brief relationship that upon its conclusion doesn't completely destroy her, but leaves her forlorn.

As a result, the winter is exceptionally difficult for her. She also finds herself sick with fever one night. This is when her mother pays her a visit. At first, it looks like a dream sequence — a weak Lenu imagining the presence of her mother, Immacolata Greco (Annarita Vitolo), coming to help her bear the harsh winter. And it is on this night that she picks up the journals that Lila had entrusted upon her.

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Elena escaped Naples in the previous episode. Moving to Pisa to study at the university there, she left the neighbourhood for good. Or at least she thought. One can hardly ever elude the grey of the neighbourhood and she is brought back via Lila's (Gaia Girace) notebooks.

In the novels by Ferrante, the second book begins with Lila Cerullo giving her personal diaries to Lenu, which she read almost immediately. However, Costanzo waited till the penultimate episode of the series for it. We have no complaints about that especially since we get this striking episode as a result.

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Lenu's mother brings along with her some news from the neighbourhood. This prompts Lenu to read those journals that Lila had passed on to her.

Margherita Mazzucco as Elena Greco and Bruno Orlando as Franco Mari on 'My Brilliant Friend' (Image: HBO)

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After Enzo Scanno (Giovanni Buselli) brings Lila back to Stefano's, she tells him the truth - the child is not his. But Stefano Carracci (Giovanni Amura), an egotistical maniac, cannot bring himself to accept the truth and lives in denial. She expresses that she doesn't wish to work only wants to stay at home and raise her child — her not theirs.

Rino, named after Lila's brother, is only her child. Stefano, according to Lila, had no role to play. After his arrival, the husband and wife try to live in harmony but that is extremely shortlived as Stefano's rage, fury and insecurities begin catching up.

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Lila has no energy, time or space to spare for Stefano — she doesn't even cook for him, cooking only when she gets time off her son or when she is hungry. She completely dedicates herself to Rino and her nephew Dino, working hard towards pushing their intelligence with games and interactions. A remarkable contrast to how neglected her childhood was, Lila doesn't wish the same upon Rino. 

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Some lines in the episode mesmerize you in the same way that they did in the books. From Lila's immense gratification of Rino and her motherly instincts to their relationship, Ferrante's words are brought alive through Girace's sincere portrayal of Lila. 

But Stefano's impatience takes no time to turn into violence and abuse, not only physical but also mental. Lila upon finally finding out that he is involved in an affair with Ada Cappuccio (Ulrike Migliaresi) confronts him, but cannot get him to accept him. She reiterates that the child is not his but he proceeds to rape her disregarding the child that is asleep a few feet away from them. 

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In the end, with all doors closed, Lila requests Lenu to pass a message to Enzo. She tried to make it work but couldn't. And that he must help her now.

Annarita Vitolo as Immacolata Greco on 'My Brilliant Friend' (HBO)

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Episode 7 'Ghosts' is an ode to motherhood — Lila and Immacolata both. At her lowest point — alone and abandoned — Lenu's mother simply shows up. The journey from Naples to Pisa wasn't even one that she debated — jumping on a train to come to pay her daughter a visit despite never having been on one. The instinct comes naturally to her without any impetus or qualms.

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Immacolata is arguably a misunderstood character. In the books, Lenu and her relationship are described with steady observations. In the series, however, she is mistaken to be jealous of Lenu and the opportunities her daughter has. And while that may be true, it is not the entirety of their relationship. She is, somehow, in her own traditional stern, strict yet impressionable, conflicting way, looking after Lenu. 

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Written by Elena Ferrante, Francesco Piccolo, Laura Paolucci and Saverio Costanzo, and directed by Costanzo, 'Ghosts' is a haunting instalment in the exceptional series that is HBO's 'My Brilliant Friend'. The visuals, the interactions, Lila's anxiety and Lenu's reflections are going to stay with you long after you switch off your television, haunting your conscious, swallowing you whole just like it did Lenu. So much so that she finally had to drown Lila's words into the river.

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If Ferrante's stories don't amaze you in the slightest bit, what form of cinema ever will?

The season finale for 'My Brilliant Friend' will air on Mondays on HBO at 10/9c.

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