“A writer loses her memory. Adrift in NYC, she connects with a group of teenagers – in conversations both real and imagined – and searches for a way home.”

Director: Adam Leon
Writers: Adam Leon
Staring: Vanessa Kirby, David Ajala, Simon Brickner
Release Date: June 12, 2021

Alina Reynolds (Vanessa Kirby) is a writer looking to take the next jump in her career. One day, inexplicably, Alina loses her memory while walking in New York City. While wandering through the streets and surroundings, Alina makes friends with a group of teenagers. Italian Studies (2021) follows Aline both literally and metaphorically as she tries to remember who she is, find her identity and maker herself at home.

Italian Studies is something. It surely does exist. Much like how Alina is lost and trying to navigate herself through a overwhelming city, Italian Studies gets trips up in trying to determine its footing. Director and writer Adam Leon spoke in a podcast with Film At Lincoln Center (which I will attach at the bottom) that he made this project in three distinct separate shoots. This was necessitated by he and the crew had to be flexible with Kirby’s schedule as she made room in her life to complete this ambitious indie project.

It was with regret that Italian Studies plays out like someone who had a project and started it, but left it on the shelves, and then tried to make sense of it again. Frankly, it is how I have to do a lot of my writing. Little bit disjointed and sometimes it all falls apart.

Now I know that this is not the case, but the execution of Leon’s themes are fogged up by the daze the viewer puts themselves in trying to understand the whole point. Italian Studies is very, very abstract. It is not going to spell out any certain plot for you, and there isn’t necessarily a conclusion that will make you feel like you’ve come to a resolution.

Italian Studies has a purpose, but what it is and if it achieved it are both debatable to the viewer. Not sure that is a recipe for success.

Most important character in Italian Studies, Simon.

I turned on the movie because of Vanessa Kirby. Ever since I saw her in Pieces Of A Women (2021), I became immediately invested in whatever she does going forward. She was on the poster and she got me into it. Who kept me invested in the movie is an actor by the name of Simon Brickner, who plays a character called Simon. This guy, it is really hard to explain. When you first meet him in a hot dog store, one would think it’d be a cringe event that would simply pass by Alina’s character. That fact that Simon sticks around, and ends up with the most memorable face in the movie, is a fun surprise.

Now can I get really metaphorical on you? This is probably overthinking, but let’s go there anyways.

Alina’s first success was a short story. She now wants to write a novel. A bigger story. She wants to take advantage of the momentum she has and she wants something grander for herself. She loses her own sense of self with her memory fading and soon sees herself surrounded by teenagers. The same type of individuals she is planning on writing extensively about. As she hangs out with these young men and women, she gets more transfixed and more engrained in their life and way of thinking. She begins to connect with them on a deeper level, seemingly forgetting that she doesn’t know who she is.

IS. Now this is a big leap. IS this symbolic in the real world for when someone takes on a massive project to move up a level professionally, they can forget who they are and what got them to the position they are in now. You get so caught up in the new world you are trying to discover that you can unknowingly leave your old life behind if you don’t have something to anchor you? In that line of thinking, Alina is putting so much stress on herself to take that next step in her writing career that she has internally locked herself in a room where she doesn’t know who she is anymore?

Personally, I don’t think it is THAT crazy. I think you can draw certain strings and buy into that.

One other thematic thought to ponder while watching Italian Studies is the process of identifying oneself as a young adult/teenager. With Simon and all of the teenagers in this movie, you can see them answering questions and deeply thinking about the changes they are making and who they are now. You get the sense that they are looking for their identity. But is that the right way to approach it? I am not sure there is a right and wrong way, but the character of Simon made me think that as a young human, you are not searching for your identity. You are actually molding it. It is a long process that may produce many cracks in the kiln, but in the end you’ll have a sculpted reflection of yourself that you are happy with.

Italian Studies is watchable on Hulu.

STANKO RATING: C- (2.0/5 Stars)

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