My Brilliant Friend

3 seasons

Watch it for...

An honest and nuanced look at female friendship and the complexities of woman-and-motherhood, set against the beautiful yet gritty backdrop of post-war Italy.


Based on Elena Ferrante’s best-selling Neapolitan Novels series, My Brilliant Friend follows the lives of best friends Elena and Lilia. They remain close through their childhoods spent in a poor neighborhood of Naples, through their tumultuous youths and, eventually, to their old age. While Elena leaves the neighborhood and becomes a successful author, Lilia remains behind in Naples and lives through some very challenging situations. Central throughout the series is the two girls’ relationship, which becomes increasingly complicated as they each navigate very different careers, marriages, and motherhoods.

Beginning in the 1950s and following Elena and Lilia for nearly 60 years, the series also explores the rapidly changing and at times incendiary Italian political and cultural landscape through those years. Never shying away from difficult topics, My Brilliant Friend also touches upon issues of gender roles, violence against women, female sexuality, crime, and social class. Although it certainly deals with some heavy subject matter, the show is beautifully written and makes space for moments of humor and intrigue throughout.

Emma's thoughts

My Brilliant Friend is one of the most profoundly moving shows I’ve ever watched! As someone who read the novels with my mom, it was incredible to see the story come to life on screen. There really is something for everyone to relate to in this story. This was the first show I’ve watched where the central focus is a friendship between two women, and where that friendship is portrayed in all its authentic twists and turns. Most women I know have their own stories about a complex and unique BFF-ship, and it was very exciting to see this topic given the attention and care it deserves.  

This show challenged me too though, and I had to truly think about its subject matter, which, although not always what one needs after a long day at work, definitely encouraged a refreshing and more thoughtful approach to my viewing. Plus, the show is just beautiful to watch and will transport you right to Italy, with its perfectly executed depiction of 1960s Italian fashion and design (there were many times in which I wished I could steal some of Elena’s outfits!). Bonus points for the possibility of picking up some Italian while you watch! My Brilliant Friend is a captivating series, and I can’t wait for the final season to come out.