This lavish, sprawling drama from filmmaker Luca Guadagnino has drawn numerous comparisons to the films of Luchino Visconti for the grace with which it plumbs the inner workings of the Italian upper crust. Edoardo Recchi Sr. (Gabriele Ferzetti) is the aging patriarch of a Milanese clan that has amassed a significant fortune over the years through shrewd investments in the textile business. Edoardo Sr. has a beautiful wife, Allegra (Marisa Berenson), and the two have a reliable and dependable son, Tancredi (Pippo Delbono). Years ago, Tancredi met, fell in love with, and then married a woman named Emma (Tilda Swinton) amid a trip to Russia, and brought her back home to Milan; their children include sons Edoardo Jr. (Flavio Parenti) and Gianluca (Mattia Zaccaro), and artist daughter Elisabetta (Alba Rohrwacher). The family gathers for a reunion at Edoardo Sr. and Allegra's villa in Milan, but the happy gathering takes a somber turn when Edoardo suddenly dies not long after having lunch with his family. But the death is far from the only pivotal event that occurs that day: Edoardo Jr. also introduces his mother to a chef, Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), with whom he plans to open a restaurant, and Emma finds herself drawn to the culinary artist. Meanwhile, Emma learns that Elisabetta is a lesbian, and though initially startled by this news, she takes the liberation of her daughter as inspiration for her own liberation from confining nuptials. On impulse, Emma travels to San Remo, catches sight of Antonio, and finds herself helplessly drawn to him. Meanwhile, as Emma and Elisabetta undertake their life-changing journeys, all of the men in the Recchi clan outside of Edoardo Jr. feel bound to profit-driven motives -- the commercialism of a class that has long ago shucked responsibility for its workers. This critically acclaimed film constituted Swinton's second collaboration with Guadagnino; they first worked together on the 1999 feature The Protagonists.
by Mark Deming synopsis