I always thought of Tilda Swinton as a weirdo. She looked weird and did weird movies. Even when she did mainstream movies she was weird — though to great effect. Her White Witch in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” honed the line between creepy and attractive to an icy edge; she made it easy to see why doing bad things often seems like such a good idea.

In “I Am Love,” Swinton plays Emma Recchi, a Russian woman who married into a wealthy Italian clan. The thin family melodrama, which could easily have been “Oh, let’s watch the sad rich woman cry into her 500-thread-count pillowcase,” holds together largely thanks to Swinton’s performance. (Which is entirely in Italian. Apparently, she can speak Italian. With a Russian accent.) Director Luca Guadagnino lets the camera linger on small areas of Swinton’s body, and she seems to be able to act through her forehead and her fingertips.

Swinton could easily jettison the extreme indie life and have an IMDB profile full of movies people have heard of. She could be battling Meryl Streep for roles. But I hope she doesn’t. I hope she keeps showing up on the red carpet in outfits Lady Gaga would dismiss as too avant-garde, and I hope she keeps being known as “you know, that weird-looking redhead.” Swinton disproves that an actress has to be traditionally pretty to create something beautiful.

Written by Express contributor Kristen Page-Kirby
Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures