Me and Her FilmItaly’s first lesbian comedy has been released as the country fights the Catholic Church on civil unions for same-sex couples.

Italian romantic comedy Io E Lei (Me and Her) is the first Italian film to feature a lesbian couple in a romantic relationship. Released 2015 the film has been well received as the country fights the Catholic Church’s opposition to civil unions for same-sex couples.

Featuring two of Italy’s most famous actresses, Io E Lei depicts the relationship between Marina (Sabrina Ferilli) and her partner of six years, Federica (Margherita Buy). Marina is a strong, sexually confident woman who has always been out, while Federica has a teenage son with her ex-husband and is experiencing her first lesbian relationship. A crisis engulfs the couple when Federica questions her identity, her relationship and the kind of life she wants to lead.

Criticism of the film has centred on the ordinary, everyday depiction of the couple’s relationship, a deliberate choice by writer and director Maria Sole Tognazzi.

“I haven’t made this film to provoke… In a sense, my provocation was the normality, not the diversity. Emphasising the equality of the relationship, putting it on the same level – as it should be – with all other love stories turned it into a political film, but that was never the intent.” Tognazzi told CinemaItaliaUK

Equality activists say Io E Lei is playing an important role in the fight for equality.

“It is an important movie that is speaking to society and politicians, and it’s saying that there aren’t rights for gay and lesbian couples,” said Fabrizio Marrazzo from Italian LGBTI rights group, Arcigay.

“Sabrina Ferilli is a real female symbol in Italy. It’s important she has this role so that people understand that lesbians don’t come from another planet.”

In recent years, the Italian public has undergone a dramatic attitude shift towards supporting LGBTI people. An estimated 80% of people support the civil union’s bill, although this support is being threatened by Catholic Church’s opposition to both civil unions and step-child adoption rights.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is under pressure from the European Union to introduce either marriage equality or civil unions. Italy is the last Western European country to do so, and in July last year, the European High Court of Human Rights criticised Italy’s lack of “recognition and protection” for same-sex couples.

Last week, The Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Nils Miuznieks stated that, “If heterosexual unmarried couples can adopt their partner’s children, gay unmarried couples must be able to do the same.”

Renzi has vowed to get the civil union’s bill passed, along with the adoption clause.

“What is there to fear from two people who love each other? Why not give these rights to two people who love each other? The majority of the country is clearly in favour of it,” he said.

The Senate is due to conclude voting on the bill in late February.