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‘The Lying Life of Adults’ Review: Netflix’s Take on Elena Ferrante’s Bestselling Novel

‘The Lying Life of Adults’ Review: Netflix’s Take on Elena Ferrante's Bestselling Novel

Valeria Golino stars in this six-episode coming-of-age tale set amidst the stunning backdrop of ’90s Naples.

If you give one of Elena Ferrante’s books the chance it deserves, your exploration into the complexities of female identity – from society-imposed expectations to cultural and geographical contexts – will prove both rewarding and enlightening. Her works capture more than just themes concerning women; they also provide a unique insight into Italian history as well as an opportunity for readers to apply their own knowledge and interests.

Edoardo De Angelis provides a unique interpretation of Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults in his Netflix limited series. This meandering, sometimes dreamlike adaption may not be as intricately tailored to the book as some other adaptations, however, its looser structure permits occasional bouts of provocative digressions and also stunning visuals that make this adaptation truly stand out. 

The Lying Life of Adults is not an overwhelming success like My Brilliant Friend, however, it encompasses moments that brim with life and painful yet universal truth. There are twice as many episodes in each season than in the former show which allows one to submerge themselves even further into its captivating world.

Set in the bustling Italian city of Naples during the 1990s, The Lying Life of Adults follows Giovanna (Giordana Marengo), a young adult on her journey to maturity. She is part of an upper-middle-class family headed by Andrea (Alessandro Preziosi) and Nella (Pina Turco). As she struggles between being sexually inexperienced, ideologically undeveloped, and overall without direction, living up to what has been expected from her parents, it begins showing through academically as she starts failing school subjects. And then one day, something changes everything when Giovanna overhears her father making a statement, “She’s starting to look like my sister.” Startled, her mother anxiously wonders, “What are you saying? She’s a monster!”

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Giovanna interprets her parents’ words literally, assuming they are speaking of her physical features – an unlikely scenario since she has Timothée Chalamet’s stunning bone structure. However, Giovanna is oblivious to the details about her aunt Vittoria (Valeria Golino). Every photograph with Vittoria appears bereft of a face; however, neither Giovanna nor anyone else knows why there is such a rift between them.

Despite her parents’ attempts to explain away their references to “ugliness” as metaphorical, Giovanna insists on them allowing her to travel from the Vomero district of Naples and make the journey down in order to meet with Vittoria. A woman who stands in stark contrast with all that Giovanna’s parents represent – smoking cigarettes whilst discussing intimate details of sexual liaisons while still remaining devoutly spiritual – it is no surprise that she becomes entranced by this unique individual.

Vittoria may have little, yet still overflows with vitality. Giovanna’s parents possess luxuries of life; however, they live in an emotionless void. Vittoria believes that Andrea’s reality is a sham while Andrea claims the same about Vittoria, and to nobody’s surprise, both are correct. The only way for Giovanna to gain comprehension is through her own missteps, coming one after another as she progresses along her journey.

This series takes a different approach than My Brilliant Friend, one with more of a lively and pop-style feel. To be effective, it must take risks and embrace mischief at times; however, the loudness can be too much – narrated in an echoing reverb with booming soundtracks that lack finesse or moments played backward giving off style but not substance.

The Lying Life of Adults has a current of rebellious youth running through it, and this latest version intensifies that feeling. Rather than an inward-looking story, readers will discover a fresh perspective full of increased energy and excitement. This edition truly brings the novel to life in a new way.

About the author

Steven Ly

Steven Ly is the Startup Program and Events Manager at TheNextHint Inc. She recruits rockstar startups for all TC events including Disrupt, meetups, Sessions, and more both domestically and internationally. Previously, she helped produce Dreamforce with Salesforce and Next '17 with Google. Prior to that, she was on the advertising teams at both Facebook and AdRoll, helping support advertisers in North America and helped grow those brands globally. Outside of work, Steven enjoys Flywheel, tacos, the 49ers, and adventuring around the globe.

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