Newest Reviews
Death at Broadcasting House
Ghost Strata
Call to Spy, A
Other Lamb, The
Every Time I Die
Lynn + Lucy
Honest Thief
Blood and Money
Rose: A Love Story
Antrum: The Deadliest Film Ever Made
Om Dar-B-Dar
Silencing, The
J.R. 'Bob' Dobbs and the Church of SubGenius
Dick Johnson is Dead
Legacy of Lies
I Am Woman
Alien Addiction
Dare, The
South Terminal
Little Monsters
Yield to the Night
My Zoe
Young Playthings
End of Summer
Times of Harvey Milk, The
Perfectly Normal Family, A
Honeymoon Phase, The
One Summer
Bird Island
Devil to Pay, The
Newest Articles
Down to the Welles: Orson Welles Great Mysteries Volume 2 on DVD
Herding Cats: Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray
Confessions of a Porn Star: Adult Material on DVD
They're Still Not Sure It is a Baby: Eraserhead on Blu-ray
Werewolves are Real: Dog Soldiers on Digital
Rose: A Love Story - Producers April Kelley and Sara Huxley Interview
Phone Phreak: 976-EVIL on Blu-ray
Living the Nightmare: Dementia on Blu-ray
Becky and The Devil to Pay: Ruckus and Lane Skye Interview
Big Top Bloodbath: Circus of Horrors on Blu-ray
A Knock on the Door at 4 O'clock in the Morning: The Strangers on Blu-ray
Wives of the Skies: Honey Lauren Interview
To Catch a Thief: After the Fox on Blu-ray
Tackling the Football Film: The Arsenal Stadium Mystery on Blu-ray
Film Noir's Golden Couple: This Gun for Hire on Blu-ray
The Doctor Who Connection: Invasion on Blu-ray
Hill's Angles: Benny Hill and Who Done It? on Blu-ray
Big Willie Style: Keep It Up Downstairs on Blu-ray
Walt's Vault: 5 Cult Movies on Disney+
Paradise Lost: Walkabout on Blu-ray
Buster Makes Us Feel Good: Buster Keaton - 3 Films (Volume 3) on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 3 - Don't Go Away - I Could Do with a Bit of Cheer Now!
What Use is Grief to a Horse? Equus on Blu-ray
For God's Sake Strap Yourselves Down: Flash Gordon on 4K UHD Collector's Edition
Party Hard: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray
  Ema Strange Kind Of Woman
Year: 2019
Director: Pablo Larraín
Stars: Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael García Bernal, Santiago Cabrera, Paola Giannini, Cristián Suárez, Giannina Fruttero, Josefina Fiebelkorn, Catalina Saavedra, Paula Luchsinger, Paula Hofmann, Antonia Geisen, Susana Hidalgo, Eduardo Paxeco, Natalia Bakulic
Genre: Drama, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dancer Ema (Mariana Girolamo) wanted more than anything to have a child to bring up, and as her husband Gastón (Gael García Bernal) was impotent, which she did not know when she married him, he was not able to make her pregnant. Therefore adoption was their only option, and that did not go so well either, for the child they fostered became increasingly unruly and violent, and now has been given back to the agency since Ema and her partner cannot take care of him anymore in the wild state he is in. Understandably, this has put a serious strain on the marriage, yet will Ema have to give up on her dreams of motherhood and instead lose herself in her new passion of dance?

One of writer and director Pablo Larraín's movies where you were not necessarily supposed to admire, or maybe even like, the protagonist, this was a downright peculiar melodrama which took its time to examine the maladjusted psychology of its lead without taking the opportunity to explain why she ended up as she did - you had to take it for granted that she was a one-woman disaster area. She doesn't seem to be for a long stretch of the film, but after a while you begin to piece together the clues the story is eking out and put two and two together to make five; the grand finale where we realise what she has been up to all along rendered this a mystery drama in its way.

So much so that the last five minutes felt like a punchline to a not particularly funny joke, though it was preposterous enough to be that style of narrative. Before that, Ema was also a sort of musical, not that the characters burst into song, but they did burst into dance as the lead's job offers the chance to watch her in action with her friends and colleagues. Gastón was not left out of this; although Bernal did not dance, he played a choreographer who Ema had latched onto - this was before she was aware of his personal problem - and predictably they did not stay wed for long. Mind you, that was about all that was predictable about our anti-heroine, so perverse was she.

That's perverse in personality rather than sexuality, though her bisexuality initially appears to be part of her adventurous spirit until we realise what she is performing is an obsessive act of manipulation. We do not see the little boy who she and Gastón adopted very much, but alarm bells should have been ringing when we hear about him: for instance, one of Ema's friends has been permanently disfigured by the child's love of fire, and Ema makes excuses for him as if he was too young to know what he was doing. Yet what's this? Ema hitting the town with a flamethrower and setting various cars, traffic lights and playparks alight? So who is supposed to be the pyromaniac again, the little boy or his one-time adoptive parent? What looks like eccentricity is actually a lot grimmer.

Girolamo was effective enough in her role to keep you guessing as to what Ema was up to, though part of that was Larraín's obfuscation in deciding what to keep from the audience and what to drip feed us with as far as the plot went. This had a distancing effect, and while you found out why that was - you do not want to get too close to this woman, even if she is a fictional character - the interest in working out what made her tick was held at bay to an extent by the chilly presentation and technique. Every so often the movie would break up the drama with those dance numbers, and even a couple of sex sequences which we may think are there to be erotic distractions, but in retrospect demonstrate just how far Ema will go to pull the strings of those around her and are in fact weirdly disturbing. This is because, from the path these efforts traditionally take, we will spend the film believing Ema is the one who needs help until we twig everyone else needs help to escape her. Music by Nicolas Jaar.

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 495 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg


Last Updated: