There is something hypnotic and free-flowing about the tracking shots in The Lying Life of Adults. The camera gently follows the characters as if flowing with them. The shots especially become fluid when we watch characters driving in their cars or scooters. A scooter goes down a road with so much effortless grace that it almost seems dreamlike. The Lying Life of Adults is technically competent, which means it's always pleasing to look at.
But a storm is brewing beneath these lovely compositions. Giovanna (Giordana Marengo) will learn some secrets that will cause a rift in her family, leading her to discover, well, the lying life of adults. That path to discovery begins with an ugly remark - literally, in this case. You see, Giovanna hears her father (Alessandro Preziosi) calling her ugly when he compares her to his sister Vittoria (Valeria Golino). This pushes Giovanna to seek out Vittoria to see if she really is as unattractive and impolite as her parents describe her to be.
Notice the scene where Giovanna goes to meet Vittoria for the first time. When she and her father drive to the destination, we briefly glimpse a shot where the rainbow is on the left side of the screen while black smoke from the factories is released from the right. The Lying Life of Adults is filled with such contrasting views. When a group of people hums and walk peacefully, the camera pans sideways to reveal a group of boys wrestling. Two husbands greet one another by hugging while their wives chat with dissonance in their voices. There are characters who are non-believers, and there are characters who are Catholic. Finally, there are two different worlds occupied by adults and children. The former do things that the latter find hard to comprehend.
What are those things? Well, like having an affair. One of the pieces of advice Vittoria gives Giovanna is that she should carefully watch her parents. When Giovanna follows that advice, she notices her mother, Nella (Pina Turco), playing footsie under the table with some other man. Obviously, things turn sour between the mother and the daughter. The whiff of this dispute can be detected in the scene where Nella observes her daughter dancing on the road. At that moment, you see a physical and emotional distance between them. Return to that footsie observation. It leads to another revelation, breaking the marital relationship of Giovanna's parents.
Let's go back to the first meeting between Giovanna and Vittoria. We don't immediately see the conversation that occurs between them. We watch Giovanna enter Vittoria's apartment, and in the next scene, we see her entering the car. The series gives us bits and pieces about what happened between them when Giovanna recounts the meeting in the presence of her father. And then, it cuts to the scene inside Vittoria's apartment and shows us the entire exchange. By cutting the scene this way, The Lying Life of Adults stretches suspense and underlines Giovanna's new behavior of lying to her parents. The lies range from small (she shrugs when her father mentions loud music) to significant (she doesn't tell her parents about her plans to visit the cemetery with Vittoria).
The Lying Life of Adults has whimsy baked into it. When Giovanna and Vittoria dance, they rise up in the air. In other places, shots are reversed, as if the director is obsessed with some portions of Orpheus and Tenet. That means the waves flow backward, leaves go upwards, and the food comes out from the mouth of a character. One can find sadness in all this by commenting that the images can go backward, but the relationships (like a marriage break-up) cannot be similarly reversed back to their original state.
"When you are little, everything seems big. When you are a grown-up, everything seems small. Each to their own." This is one of the lines we frequently hear in a voice-over. It's meant to accentuate how we live in a happy bubble during childhood and how it bursts when we become adults. The line becomes repetitive after a point, and when you hear it for what seems like the hundredth time, you feel like telling the show, "Hey, we get what you are trying to say! Just stop already." Marengo does an excellent job of not making Giovanna opaque. She registers everything and responds appropriately to situations. Golino has the most memorable screen presence. The way she switches between being friendly and impertinent during her initial encounter with Giovanna is simply superb. The other actors are okay. They are not as noteworthy as Marengo and Golino, which is why The Lying Life of Adults is not so great overall. If everyone were operating on the same level of excellence, scenes like the confrontation between Giovanna and a Catholic boy would have erupted with verve and joy. Alas, The Lying Life of Adults, like its characters, is not at all perfect. But that shouldn't stop you from checking it out on Netflix.
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