29th Philadelphia Film Festival: ‘Ema’ Reviewed

by Rachel Bellwoar


Directed by Pablo Larraín

Screenplay by Pablo LarraínGuillermo Calderón, and Alejandro Moreno

No one is going to argue with the title. Ema really is “all about Ema” and the hold she has over people in this movie. With her mesmerizing screen presence and bleach blonde hair, actress, Mariana Di Girólamo, makes it look easy, yet her character is able to weave such a web in Ema that even though Larraín gives viewers everything they need to figure out her master plan and follow along as she does it, there’s still a good chance it won’t sink in right away, because it’s too fantastic.

When the film begins, Ema and her husband, Gastón (Gael García Bernal), have just given their adopted son, Polo (Cristián Suárez) back up for adoption and are starting to feel some guilt and remorse over it. When they’re not trying to hurt each other with words, Ema is a dancer in Gastón’s company and their marriage problems are starting to get in the way there as well. Dancers are being accused of choosing sides and there’s judgement all around.

It’s hard to get a straight answer from anyone, but it doesn’t sound like Ema and Gastón were the best parents, but then you hear Polo burned Ema’s sister’s face and that’s extremely concerning, too.

The film is filled with dancing and sex, as Ema has chemistry with everyone. At times it feels like you’re watching a music video, except instead of a baseball bat Ema wields a flamethrower. The ending is preposterous but in a good way. Ema may be manipulative and her choices unhealthy but she’s not short on charisma.

The 29th Philadelphia Film Fesitval runs from October 23rd to November 2nd. Click here for the full program.

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