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‘L’Immensità’ Review: Penélope Cruz Adds Dazzle to a Gentle, Poignant Tale of Transgender Adolescence

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Guy Lodge Film Critic “L’Immensità” is director Emanuele Crialese’s first feature film in 11 years, and only his fifth in a quarter-century: The gifted Italian, best known to international audiences for his splendid, richly felt Ellis Island immigrant saga “Golden Door,” has never been one for unconsidered or impersonal projects.

At first glance, then, one might wonder what drew him out of hibernation for a film that, with its trim runtime and small-scale domestic narrative, belies a title that translates as “immensity.” This 1970s-set story of a 12-year-old navigating his gender identity while his mother battles mental health demons is too palpably pained and heartfelt to be called slight, but it’s sensitive and peculiar in ways that feel fragile — occasionally splintered and swamped by an elaborate setpiece, or the outsize star magnetism of arguably its secondary lead, one Penélope Cruz.

What gives the film ballast, in fact, falls under the category of outside knowledge: that for Crialese, it’s a distorted memoir of sorts, filtering his own adolescent experience through the perspective of a child born biologically female, and yearning to be someone else.

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