Lost among the shuffle of high profile queer TV series that debuted this year is “The Ignorant Angels,” (“Le Fate Ignoranti”), which is currently streaming on HULU. The series is an expanded version of the 2001 film, “His Secret Life,” (aka “The Ignorant Fairies”), directed by showrunner Ferzan Ozpetek. The story of the film is the basis for the series; Antonia (Cristiana Capotondi), a bourgeois doctor in Rome, discovers that her late husband Massimo (Luca Argentero) had a male lover, Michele (Eduardo Scarpetta). Antonio slowly joins Michele and his “chosen family,” a group of LGBT friends, which include a blue-haired Turkish woman, Serra (Serra Yilmaz), who reprises her film role for the show.
Several incidents in the film are repeated in the series, but as it plays out over eight episodes, “The Ignorant Angels” takes time to develop its large cast of characters. Not only do viewers get to see how Massimo and Michele meet cute in a bookshop, before his death a year later, but all of Massimo’s friends — which include the transgender Vera (Lilith Primavera); the lesbian couple Annamaria (Ambra Angiolini) and Roberta (Anna Ferzetti); the gay couple Riccardo (Edoardo Purgatori) and Luciano (Filippo Scicchitano); and the feisty single woman Luisella (Paola Minaccioni) — all get their own storylines.
Most of the drama contrasts Antonia and Michele, who have nothing in common (save Massimo), but are, in fact, very much alike. Although he is a gay man and she is a straight woman, they share a love that is deep and romantic, which is part of the story’s appeal. The series plays up the parallels by showing them both lying in bed alone and even “together” to emphasize their connection. Moreover, subplots — such as Roberta’s affair, which threatens her marriage to Annamaria, or an episode involving Antonia’s mother, Veronica (Carla Signoris) having an affair with a married general — comment on issues of fidelity, echoing themes of a “double” or “secret” life.
But “The Ignorant Angels” is most moving when it addresses the pain that love can cause. Antonia and Michele each have quiet, reflective moments where they think about or remember Massimo and his “ghost” appears unexpectedly. (Massimo also introduces several of the episodes, providing little lessons on the themes being explored.) The supporting characters also grapple with pain, from Vera, whose mother (Ren Hanami) rejected her, to Serra, who fled Turkey, filled with heartbreak. (Her story is told in the final episode, and it showcases Yilmaz well.)
Serra’s handsome nephew, Asaf (Burak Deniz) arrives in one episode, and he attracts Antonia, which causes Michele some jealousy. Likewise, Antonia becomes jealous when Michele dances and kisses several men who have come to his apartment for a party Asaf has thrown. It should be noted that Michele’s apartment is where all the characters congregate to eat — “The Ignorant Angels” has several moments of pure food porn — and gossip. This is a series where the characters all have jobs, but only rarely seem to work, and they all live in fabulous, and fabulously decorated, apartments.
As the show unfolds, the characters grow on viewers; it is easy to feel part of the circle. (In this way, the show is almost like an LGBTQ version of “Friends.”) The warm, inviting nature of Michele and his apartment and friends is described as a “world outside oneself,” which is why it appealed to Massimo, then Antonia, and even her mother Veronica. It is gratifying to see how the characters all support one another — as when Sandro (Samuel Garofalo), a young gay man, who has a crush on Michele, is bullied in one episode, and Vera comes to his rescue, or when the crew supports Annamaria when she gives Roberta an ultimatum.
There are also comedic moments, mostly involving Luisella, who finds herself unexpectedly attracted to Bepo (Giulio Corso), a country mouse to her city mouse, or when Luisella says the wrong thing to Contessa Mirtilla (Elena Sofia Ricci) when she accompanies Antonia to a function. In addition, a Greek chorus, consisting of the three Marias, (Patrizia Loreti, Giulia Greco and Mimma Lovoi) have amusing comments on the comings and goings at the apartment building where Michele and his friends all live.
And this is why “The Ignorant Angels” is such an enjoyable binge. The characters may be exaggerated, but they are relatable. Antonia comes out of her antisocial shell and starts to live, having met Michele and his friends. Cristiana Capotondi plays her as a steely woman who softens over time, especially as Asaf acts kindly towards her. As Michele, Eduardo Scarpetta is expressive, channeling his emotions which range from confusion and anger to love. Scarpetta also has a body that looks like it was made out of fine Italian marble, and the series frequently lets him display his impressive chest and six pack. As Asaf, Burak Deniz also provides some eye candy, in addition to being a saintly character. While the supporting players are all wonderful, Serra Yilmaz is the standout as the wise Serra, whose observations on people, love, and human nature give the show its gravitas.
“The Ignorant Angels” offers a diverting cast of characters and storylines. It may have been overlooked amid all the flashier LGBTQ series this year, but it is well worth watching.