(SPECIAL EDITION) Best Supporting Actress Profile for 2010: Maria Paiato in I Am Love


For the first time, I joined Stinkylulu’s annual tradition of hosting a blog-a-thon that pays tribute to the several supporting actresses of the past year. For this, this post serves as my in this special event. Click here.


approximately 14 minutes and 44 seconds

12.35% of the film’s running time


Maria Paiato as Ida Roselli

In this year packed with supporting actresses, whether she is a king’s queen, a boxer’s mom, a boxer’s girl, a rival ballet dancer, a mob mother, a lead actress in a western, and among others, supporting actresses outside the English language are very much ignored. Before I continue this, I would admit that I haven’t seen many films from 2010 yet. So, in this high-profile grandiose Italian melodrama, the one’s getting attention is the ever-wonderful Tilda Swinton in the role of Emma Recchi.

What most people do not acknowledge is that the film was an ensemble work. Tilda’s the lead, but it’s not just her show. And the film has a great cast. And here, I am going to recognize Maria Paiato in the endearing role of the loyal maid of the Recchi family.

In a fast glimpse in the movie, you may simply ignore her, as she is just behind, but she also gets to have conversations with the other highlighted characters. But what you will notice on repeated viewings is on how much Maria adds in the making of the film’s over-all impact.

First of all, she is not a maid with a back story, or a maid with family problems at home, she plays it straight.  But she means not as a maid to Emma, but more of a confidante. Still, she never forgets the job that she has in the house.

We are not given much details in her life. She plays it straight throughout. She doesn’t have any big breakdowns until the end of the film, but she places certainty in us that she is a character with emotions. She did not act in a way that you will feel that she was just placed in the story to be the head maid of the family. She is a person with feelings. She plays it with tenderness and gentleness that we could sympathize to her because she does everything for the good of the family, but that doesn’t mean that she did it in a one-dimensional way. The screenplay may have written her that way, but she doesn’t do that.

Also, she is the character that we most trust to. She’s the character without any vanity, she is an honest person, and she doesn’t try to meddle in the proceedings. She goes with the flow in the film’s turbulent events, and she’s the character the characters in the story trust. With her simple conversations with Emma, she easily creates a strong foundation of assurance from her character that she will never let Emma down.

Can you see Maria? She’s the one in the rightmost of the picture.

She trusts Emma, and what’s more is that Emma trusts her. And we trust her. I believe it is really hard to make a convincing performance that evokes trust. Especially in this story filled with characters doing things that really cause a doubt in us (Emma is having an affair with her son’s friend, her son is secretly pregnant with his girlfriend, her daughter is a closeted lesbian), we would really root for a character that we can trust. And that is simply played very well by Maria.

Before the film’s tense second half, she never tries to steal anyone’s spotlight. Not from Emma. Not from Emma’s son. Not from Emma’s daughter. Not from Emma’s family. You may say that you have never noticed her in the first hour of the film, as the conflicts of the story tend to really steal away from her the focus, and she never had much focus in those scenes, but she crafts a solid character with ease in these two acts that provide the backbone for the character’s tougher scenes.

For the second half, her character is immersed in an environment filled with uncertainty. She’s the only one that we could trust. And the only one the characters trust. She was able to be in two key scenes that leaves a mark to us.

First was when Edoardo Jr., played by Flavio Parenti, expresses confusion, doubt, and weakness to her, and he cries to her. She carries the unexplainable care that she wants to give to him but is suppressed because she is not in any way related to her. Of course, she had been there for a very long time and may have seen the growth of the Recchi children, but still, she is not a part of the family.She does it in a very subtle way. She doesn’t expect that, and the silent shock is very well-played by her.

Second was the film’s explosive and, should I say, mystical ending. The spotlight is in the whole ensemble, but the focus was on Emma and her. As Emma rushes to escape, she assists her. She knows where the panic came from, and she understands all well. As if she knows everything. In this scene, we get to find out that Ida is the most alert character in the film. Because she is not part of the family, she remains restrained for the most part, but as the head maid and trusted one of the family, she knows the dynamics of the family.

And if you would be able to observe in her earlier conversations with Emma, she senses something weird, but of course, she’s a maid. She stops for a while, but never tries to steal any spotlight from her, as she is built to react. She but it is the ending that makes her active. She takes the initiative of helping Emma, as she knows the whole family, led by Emma’s husband, wants to abhor her out of the family. She’s Emma’s real friend, but she never crosses the boundary, as she is still a maid.

And the ending is the only outburst the character can have. And Ida releases the tears with overflowing and amazing sensation of grief and, in some ways, guilt. She could have helped Emma more. But she’s limited by her capacity to help due to her loyalty to the family, and she knows what may happen to Emma. She cares for herself, but she is not selfish. She just doesn’t want to interfere. It’s a magical work from Maria, as she holds the screen with control to be able to bring a realistic approach to the scene. It’s a somewhat puzzling ending, though I love it. There is a metaphoric tone in it that you might not get, but Maria explodes with big amount of clarity in it. It’s the best moment of the film, but everyone might not get it.

Her best scene is, unfortunately, a big spoiler for those who hasn’t seen the film yet, and I don’t want to spoil such extraordinary movie experience, but for those who has seen it and want to take a look at it, or those who are just curious about seeing what I am talking about, here it is:

Come the awards season, and she didn’t get any notice. Of course, there are a lot of factors: she lives up in being a real supporting actress that does not try to steal anything from those she supports, she is a relatively unknown actress if we are taking about Hollywood, and she’s in a foreign language film. If she had been very famous and was in an American film, I’m sure she will be noticed and she could have been nominated. But nonetheless, Paiato provides a strong emotional vessel to us that does it in the real meaning of the word “supporting”.


So, what are your thoughts, dear reader?

4 thoughts on “(SPECIAL EDITION) Best Supporting Actress Profile for 2010: Maria Paiato in I Am Love

  1. Obviously, I too love this performance :). I love the way her hands clutch Swinton’s back in that embrace, as though Ida is trying to either keep her there…or be taken off with her. Beautifully-written, Malcolm, and extra points for giving us Video Evidence of her brilliance!


    • Thanks, Walter!

      Those hands…. ugh! She doesn’t want her to go! And I thought the ending was already removed from youtube. Glad it’s still there, because I want to prove that she’s definitely great. 🙂


  2. when I saw the name on the list, I thought it was going to be the actress playing the daughter, but I was wrong 🙂

    I admit to have been more captivated, on the supporting side, by the lesbian girl & by Marisa Berenson.

    but it’s nice most of us went for less talked about performances.


    • I really understand you on the lesbian girl and Berenson. I really consider both of them in my write-up, but taking another look at the film and Paiato ultimately caught me off-guard.

      And I noticed it too. Aside from Kunis, who got a lot of support, the blog-a-thon this year is unusual because of the variety of picks this year.


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