Ema – Chilean auteur extraordinaire Pablo Larraín’s third collaboration with Mexican actor Gael García Bernal after No and Neruda, and his second movie after Tony Manero where dance plays a striking role as a tool for both individual and political statement – is electrifying, scorching, crazy weird, deliriously subversive and filled with untrammeled energy. In its rousing expression of individual identity, woman’s agency, moral ambiguity, sexual fluidity and cinematic freeform, the film walked a razor’s edge – like a petrol bomb with a loose fuse – in balancing its bold stylistic splashes, narrative flamboyance, combustible emotional cocktail and sociopolitical provocation; in short, this was an audacious, no holds barred gamble by a supremely confident filmmaker, given that it could’ve easily gone crashing spectacularly. The narrative’s incendiary heroine is Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo in a ferociously brilliant turn) – a stunning enigma with shocking peroxide blond hair, unfathomable in her impulses, pyromaniac, anarchic, borderline sociopathic and with a passion for the reggaetón and hiphop danceform – and she’s desperate to get back Polo, a Colombian kid who she’d adopted with her older choreographer husband Gastón (Bernal), only for them to give him back for readoption after he burned Ema’s sister’s face. And, in order to achieve that, she embarks on a scintillating romp involving seducing Polo’s current adoptive parents – conventional family man father and seemingly staid mother but with a suppressed and simmering sensuality (Paola Giannini) – torching street lights along with her wildly rebellious friends, and indulging in defiant freestyle street dance. The dazzling shot compositions, pulsating score, euphoric dance sequences and the gritty graffiti-laced milieu of Valparaíso added to the film’s chaotic, scalding, liberating and hypnotic expression of anger, grief, desire, dissent and freedom.
Director: Pablo Larrain
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama