The latest film from Chilean director Pablo Larrain sees him reunite with Gael Garcia Bernal and introduce the world to Mariana Di Girolamo in an off-beat family drama that’s electric to the touch. Larrain has made a career out of films that combine a docu-drama aesthetic with dashes of the abstract, as the likes of No and Jackie demonstrate. He’s someone who likes lifting the lid on the people in his frame, often letting all their colours spill out, with shades that are equal parts beautiful and ugly. Never has that been more true than in his latest film Ema, an intoxicating look into the extreme actions of one woman looking to piece her family back together.
Set in the port city of Valparaíso, the film follows reggaeton dancer Ema (Mariana Di Gioralmo) who has a tempestuous marriage with her choreographer, Gaston (Gael Garcia Bernal). When a tragic incident sees their adopted son taken away from them, Ema sets out on a path of fiery liberation to repair her family by any means necessary.
Ema is a striking piece from Larrain. It is super charged on every level, with every scene feeling like a firework that’s frantically shifting in place as if on the cusp of exploding. It’s a visceral film with many searing images that emerge from its eclectic port city. From striking dance sequences, to moments revelling in the streets and apartments of the city of Valparaiso, Larrain makes great use of his vibrant location and the larger than life personalities that it plays home to. The impression it gives is of a city that is always ready to dance, drink and fuck, and it’s an intoxicating place to be.
Full review over at VultureHound, originally published April 28th 2020.