*Tilda Swinton won an Oscar for the blockbuster Michael Clayton in 2008, but informed fans of the talented actress know that she has delivered plenty of comparable performances over the years in such lesser-known pictures as The Deep End, Burn after Reading and Julia, to name a few.

Now, you can add I Am Love to that long list of under-appreciated outings, for the versatile thespian again tests the limits of her enviable acting range here, speaking in Italian with a Russian accent in this bittersweet saga of forbidden love. And although almost 50, she shows no hesitation about sharing explicit nude scenes opposite a hunk about half her age.  

Written and directed by Luca Guadagnino, the story is set in Milan around the turn of the millennium at the sprawling estate of the Recchis, a wealthy Italian family which makes its money in textiles. At the point of departure, we find aging patriarch Edoardo, Sr. to entrust with control of his considerable empire.

However, for our purposes, all that really matters is that Emma (Swinton), the Russian wife of Edoardo’s son, Tancredi Pippo Delbono), is unhappy, despite having lived in the lap of luxury since the day they were married. Nonetheless, she has come to feel neglected by her always otherwise occupied spouse, So, with their three children grown and out of the mansion, the grand dame decides, ala Teri Garr in Tootsie, to take responsibility for her own orgasm.

Then, while vacationing at a villa in Sanremo, the sexually-frustrated cougar has her head turned by Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), a handsome young chef she’d just met through one of her sons (Flavio Parenti). He’s equally attracted to the well-preserved sugar momma, and a few compromising positions later that wan look of detachment and frigidity has been wiped off the face of the suddenly lust-crazed adulteress.

Next, the reckless pair proceeds in heat down a perilous path of increasingly-dangerous, if equally-passionate liaisons offering little chance of a safe landing, considering the difference in their ages and class. Meanwhile, Emma finds a shoulder to lean on in daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher), a lesbian about to come out of the closet for the sake of the love (Maria Paiato) of her life. Too bad the Recchi men don’t prove to be as understanding that much like the heart, the labia wants what the labia wants.

How do you say, “I am lust” in Italian?  

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for nudity and sexuality.
In Italian, Russian and English with subtitles.
Running time: 120 Minutes
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

To see a trailer for I Am Love, visit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUXEAhJb_O0