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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

HBO’s ‘My Brilliant Friend’: Language-lesson-plus

Language has always fascinated me. It's why I decided to study literature in college. (The fact that I'm poor at science and math was also a factor, but that's a whole other story.)

I've spent years trying to learn Spanish, Italian and French — with only moderate success. I've never progressed much past the I-can-order-food level (well, basic food such as pizza and beer, at least).

And as an aid to my learning, I watch as many foreign-language programs as I can. One that my wife and I are watching at the moment is "My Brilliant Friend," HBO's adaptation of the novels by Italian writer Elena Ferrante.

Told over two seasons, with a third now in production, the critically acclaimed program follows two young girls who grow up in a suburb of Naples in the decades immediately following World War II. Born to parents who struggle both to make a living and to maintain some level of respectability, the girls find themselves treated more as commodities than actual emotional beings.

Our narrator, Lenù (played by various actresses), is friends with Lila (again, various actresses), a natural-born … well genius might be a bit of an exaggeration. But she's definitely, as the title suggest, brilliant. And irrepressibly independent in both thought and deed.

We've watched all but the final two episodes of the 8-episode first season. And just as soon as we finish, we'll start on season 2. I'm anxious to see how the two girls fare in their lives.

And I just love hearing the Italian, both the proper form and the Neapolitan dialect. It's almost like studying.

But a lot more fun.