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Review by Geoff Jenke
After a shocking incident upends her family life and marriage to a tempestuous choreographer, Ema, a reggaeton dancer, sets out on an odyssey of personal liberation, in this incendiary drama about art, desire, and the modern family from director Pablo Larraín.
Adoptive parents Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) and Gastón (Gael García Bernal) are artistic free spirits in an experimental dance troupe whose lives are thrown into chaos when their son Polo is involved in a shockingly violent incident. As her marriage crumbles in the wake of their decision to abandon the child, Ema embarks on an odyssey of liberation and self-discovery as she dances and seduces her way into a daring new life. Centering on the sinuous, electrifying art of reggaeton dance, Ema is an incendiary portrait of a lady on fire, the story of an artistic temperament forced to contend with societal pressure and the urge to conform.
From world-class director Pablo Larrain (Jackie, Neruda) comes another psychologically acute exhumation of Latin American life under restriction featuring an unforgettable heroine who is determined to move freely through the world, as she electrifies everyone and everything around her.
Ema is a slightly uneven movie. The story line is ok, but the characters are hard to take to. But that is probably on purpose as Ema is not a pretty tale of love, lust and getting what you want out of life. The movie is out to shock the viewer while leaving them with some brilliant astounding images. In fact, director Pablo Larrain seems intent in bombarding us with different images, some beautiful, some chaotic, some erotic and some just not so good.
Pablo tells us in an interview for the film, “I have no idea what the spectator will take away from the film, because the film isn’t a closed-off piece; it allows for a space, a crack through which the spectator can enter and exit so that each person can provide closure to it from his or her own biography. For each person, Ema will be a different film.”
It certainly is a different film and while interesting I still have no idea what I took away from it.