Directed by Edoardo De Angelis, “The Lying Life of Adults” is a raw, unadulterated, and unprejudiced account of a rich Italian girl facing the struggles of adolescence and getting to know the harsh realities of life. The Netflix series is based on a novel written by Elena Ferrante, and the best thing about it is the nuanced way in which it treats its characters, especially the women. The women living in Ferrante’s world are not perfect; in fact, they are far from it. Some accept things the way they are, and some twitch and wriggle until they are ready to accept reality and see things as they are. There are characters who suffer in pain without any redemption, but there are a few who still harbor hope that they can hold the reins and steer clear of all the complexities.
When we see Giordana Marengo playing the protagonist, Giovanna, we get that familiar feeling of discomfort and unease that most of us had during our adolescent years. We saw our fantasies break, and even if temporarily, life did push us into a gloomy and hopeless corner. Elena Ferrante makes her characters gaze upon their repulsive side: these are people who indulge in infidelity, who are insecure, who are hypocrites, and most of all, who close their eyes, expecting that the others, too, won’t be able to see them. So, let’s see what Giovanna realizes when she gets exposed to the obfuscation of the adult world.
‘The Lying Life Of Adults’ Plot Summary: What Is the Series About?
Giovanna had started feeling that she was ugly, as she had heard her father tell her mother that she had started looking like her aunt, Vittoria. Andre, Giovanna’s father, was an academic, and accepting the fact that his daughter was not good in school was difficult for him. Her mother, Nella, on the other hand, believed that it was Giovanna’s haughtiness that had caused her marks to dip in such a manner. Giovanna got so conscious and insecure about the physical features that she needed some validation. Giovanna’s friends, Ida and Angela, who were more like family to her, told her that a lot of times, the worries and negative thoughts inside a person made them look ugly. Andre and Mariano had known each other for a long time, and both families used to have dinner and hang out together quite frequently. Though they talked about proletarian solidarity and how implementing Lenin and Lunarcharsky’s philosophy would bring real justice and equality, they tried to hide their capitalistic sentiments beneath all the intellectual talks.
Giovanna, Angela, and Ida came from quite affluent backgrounds, and they didn’t know the real essence of their city, Naples. They had been raised in an environment where they were constantly exposed to political movements; they witnessed their parents having a debate at the dinner table and expressing strong opinions, but these issues didn’t affect their lives in the same way that they would have for a commoner like Vittoria. Giovanna’s family was a classic example of a hypocritical upper middle-class stratum where people talked about ideals and principles, but all they aspired to deep down was to climb higher up the food chain. Andre talked about the plight of laborers, but he did like having expensive champagne and boasting about his influential connections. After Giovanna had heard about her aunt, Vittoria, and how she was the spitting image of her, she just wanted to go and meet her once. She knew that Andre didn’t share a very good relationship with her sister, which is why she was skeptical about asking him first. Giovanna asked her mother if she could go and meet her, and Nella conveyed the same to her husband.
Surprisingly, Andre agreed to take Giovanna himself and make her meet his sister. Andre just gave her one piece of advice: he told her not to believe in anything that Vittoria said. Giovanna was told that her aunt blamed Andre for everything that had happened in her life. He disliked her so much that he covered her face in all the family pictures he had. He was of the opinion that Vittoria never had the drive to make something of herself, and when it was too late, she realized that she couldn’t do anything about her situation and started blaming him, as that was the only way through which she could turn a blind eye towards her incapabilities. Giovanna wanted to determine for herself whether or not her father and mother were telling the truth.
What Realization Does Giovanna Have After Meeting Vittoria?
Vittoria was a proletarian, and she blamed not the system but her own brother for her condition. Giovanna hadn’t seen Vittoria’s bawdy humor and arrogant demeanor in the type of people she was surrounded with before. Vittoria didn’t judge a person based on their material possessions, and she said out loud that she was not as preposterous as her brother. Vittoria had flamboyance ingrained in her personality, and she expected her niece to have the same flare to live life on her terms. She wanted Giovanna to be a non-conformist and also rebellious, as she knew that only then could she witness the truth. She said that blindly believing whatever her parents told her to be true was also a kind of subjugation, and in order to be free, she needed to start questioning her own folks. Vittoria was a free-spirited woman, and her enthusiasm reflected in her eyes—something that had been missing from Giovanna’s life since she had stepped into adolescence. Vittoria had given Giovanna a bracelet when she was small, and when they both met, she asked where it was. Giovanna had no clue about any bracelet but did not hurt her aunt’s sentiments; she said that it no longer fit her. Her lie got caught, as Vittoria had given her an adult’s bracelet so that she could wear it when she became a teenager.
Vittoria loved a guy named Enzo, and she blamed her brother for his demise. Enzo used to live in the neighborhood of their ancestral home, and despite having a wife and three children, he had an affair with Vittoria. Andre wanted to sell the property, but Vittoria asked him not to because she didn’t have anywhere else to go. Enzo offered to pay for Andre’s share, but the latter took it on his ego. Andre went directly to Margherita, Enzo’s wife, and informed her about the affair. Though Margherita forgave Vittoria, Enzo couldn’t live his life without her, and in a few months, he died, as he was not able to be with the love of his life.
There were two narratives at play here: On one end, Vittoria claimed that Andre was responsible for Enzo’s death, and Andre said that the man was a fraud and an infidel who had eyes on their property for quite some time. Angela and Ida had been pestering Giovanna to make them meet her aunt, as they had heard so much about her. When Vittoria went to pick up the kids with Giovanna, she realized that Costanza, Angela and Ida’s mother, was wearing the same bracelet that she had given as a gift to Giovanna. The bracelet was so important for Vittoria because it was given to her by Enzo. In the eighth episode of “The Lying Life of Adults,” we realize that it was stolen by Enzo from his wife’s mother. Margherita knew about it, but she couldn’t do anything, and she had accepted the fact that her husband was the kind of man who just liked showing off, even if he didn’t have enough resources to fend for his own family.
Vittoria met Enzo’s wife every now and then, and one time she took Giovanna too to meet her and her three children: Tonino, Corrado, and Giuliana. Where Corrado was smitten by Giovanna the moment he saw her, Giovanna couldn’t remove her eyes from Tonino. Giovanna was amused to see that such relationships could exist where a woman shared such a close bond with her lover’s wife and children. Vittoria had only said one thing to her niece: whatever adults pretended to be; they were rarely like that in reality. She told her to keep a close eye on her parents and not take anything for granted. Giovanna became more skeptical of everything after that day. She became a non-conformist, and she realized that it was much better than living a life of pretentiousness, as unlike others, she was not scared of the truth.
‘The Lying Life Of Adults’ Ending Explained: Do Giovanna And Roberto End Up Together?
Giovanna realized that the world was not as it seemed to be. She got to know that her beliefs were way too idealistic, and the morals and values she believed everybody abided by were a figment of her imagination that didn’t hold any relevance in reality. She saw her mother nudging Mariano’s leg under the table, and she instantly knew that Nella was having an affair with her husband’s best friend. Giovanna needed somebody to confide in, and she ended up telling Vittoria about it, requesting that she shouldn’t mention it to anybody. Later, Giovanna came to know that it was not her mother but her father who was having an affair with Mariano’s wife, Costanza. Eventually, Andre separated from Nella and moved in with Costanza. Mariano also had no choice but to leave his wife when he learned about the affair. Andre said one very significant thing that made Giovanna realize something that, at that point in time, she was not ready for. He said that people were blaming him because he had said out loud that he was having an extramarital affair. He said that nobody was as righteous as they pretended to be, and they didn’t do the exact same thing that he did because either they didn’t have the opportunity, or they were too scared to make a move. Andre said that he knew what was going on between Mariano and Nella, and just because he hadn’t pointed it out explicitly didn’t mean that he didn’t notice it. Giovanna saw how needy and desperate her mother had become after Andre left her, and she didn’t ever want to end up being like her.
When Giovanna met Giuliana’s boyfriend, Roberto, she had an unexplainable connection with him, and he, too, reciprocated her energy. Roberto could relate to Giovanna more than he could to his girlfriend. Giovanna read about the gospel and other stuff so that she could strike up a conversation with Roberto, who was quite a well-educated man and had good knowledge about almost everything in life. Roberto asked her to come and meet him in Milan. There was an evident spark between them, and call it naivety or sheer obliviousness, Giuliana didn’t seem to notice it, and she herself offered for Giovanna to accompany her when she was leaving for Milan. When Giovanna saw Giuliana and Roberto in Milan, she noticed a thing or two about the couple. Firstly, Giuliana was very insecure, and she always looked at him as the perfect man that a girl could get. Giuliana believed that every girl who talked to Roberto did so with the intention of stealing him. Giuliana had an inferiority complex, and she felt like an outcast when Roberto’s colleagues started talking about all the intellectual stuff. She feared the day when Roberto would lose interest in her. Giovanna told her that all she had to do was be herself, and if Roberto genuinely liked her, he would never leave her. There was no way other than to take a leap of faith and trust that things would turn out in her favor. All this while, Giuliana had the bracelet that was owned by Vittoria, and while coming back from Milan, she realized that she had left it there. Something snapped inside Giovanna, and she decided to go back to Milan to bring the bracelet, or at least that is what she told Roberto. Giovanna had every intention of indulging with Roberto, but things changed once she reached Milan. She realized that Roberto was not a very good guy, and that made her repel him. Roberto was ready to cheat on his girlfriend, and it didn’t occur to him once that she treasured him so much and had always felt that she was unworthy of being with him.
Giovanna came back the next day and met her aunt, Vittoria, and told her that she had the bracelet that she had given to Giuliana. Vittoria asked her to keep the bracelet and probably, for the first time, had a totally honest conversation with her. Vittoria told her that, contrary to what she had said, she did have sexual relationships with a lot of guys after Enzo, though she couldn’t ever find someone like him, and that is why she hadn’t settled down. Giovanna felt a little hurt because she had believed Vittoria when she told her that she had been faithful for all these years. Giovanna realized that the words spoken by adults always had a hidden subtext, and she saw the idea of a perfect world getting shattered into a million pieces. She was not sad because of the realization; in fact, she felt like a burden had been released from her shoulder, as she was no longer confused and understood life in a much better manner.
Giovanna went and made love for the very first time with Rosario. She hated the man and found him way too desperate and sleazy, but she wanted to experience it for herself before starting the next chapter of her life. She left the bracelet at his house, which was symbolic of the fact that she didn’t want to carry the baggage of her past life anymore and shed off her skin to finally take on a new form. Giovanna knew that her parents believed that they were Marxists, but in reality, they were not. They belonged to the bourgeoisie, and no matter how much they said that they understood the plight of the proletariat, in reality, they didn’t. Giovanni felt scattered, and she didn’t know what she would do with her life or what challenges awaited her. She didn’t know if she would be able to deal with her new life or if it would be the same as before. She was still a blank canvas, as she was in the first episode of “The Lying Life of Adults,” but still, she was hopeful about the fact that she would be able to cope with her reality and deal with the challenges that life threw at her.
Giovanna found Ida’s diary, kept on her scooter, where the latter had written what she felt when she failed. Ida said that she didn’t feel any kind of shame about failing her exams, as it gave her an opportunity to pursue what she has always been passionate about, i.e., writing novels. Ida had told Giovanna that she would wait for her at a bus stop, and the latter did turn up on time. Together, they embarked on a journey that took them away from all the expectations and the ingenuity.
“The Lying Life of Adults” is a 2023 Italian Romance Drama series streaming on Netflix.