Ema (2019), by Pablo Larraín – Review

We find a film that does not tell a story but that poetizes a situation of incredible complexity, extremely dramatic.

The latest film by Chilean director Pablo Larraín is released now, Ema. With a career that has been shared between the TV series and the cinema, he caught worldwide attention with his fourth film, Do not (2012), set during the Pinochet dictatorship as well as his two previous works. Then, after a TV series, Escapees (2011-2013), would come The club (2015), who received the unanimous support of the criticism, in which he denounced the situation of pedophile priests within the Catholic Church, to focus later on historical figures such as Neruda (2016) and Jackie (2016) just before the one in question. As we can see, it has gone from explicitly political and social plots to personal themes like Jackie and now with Ema.

The story set in the Chilean port of Valparaiso, follows Ema, a young dancer, who decides to separate from her partner Gastón, older than her, after returning Polo for adoption, the son whom both had adopted and with the that serious problems of coexistence have arisen. Desperate for the trauma of the child's return, she wanders the streets of the port of Valparaíso, firing her flamethrower in what some may see Freudian aspects, with her friends from the dance group directed by Gastón, split between the blame for the failure of the adoption and the search for exits, at the same time tries to resituate their relationship with Gastón, who in turn does not know how to find an alternative to their lives. Ema then begins a flight forward without a fixed direction, in which, through a dispersed and liquid sexuality as it is said now, she explores new relationships with different people of both sexes in search of answers.

Those who expect a work that allows them to understand their protagonists and understand the situation they have lived, will be disappointed.

Larraín maintains an agile rhythm based on a succession of magnificent dance music videos at the rhythm of reggaeton, very well choreographed, especially the one that has the sun spots in the background, which is followed with interest, although in the end we realize that no they have allowed us to barely know the protagonists or their previous personal and family situation, etc.

We must highlight the interpretations of the protagonist, Mariana Di Girolamo and Gael Garcia Bernal in the difficult role of Gastón. The film focuses on the two characters, especially Ema and her friends, the rest of the cast being mere companions of her search. Something that was already happening in his previous film Jackie. It should be noted that the film offers an interesting subtitling, which allows not to get lost in the neighborhood jargon of Valparaíso, with words often barely intelligible but that bring great veracity to the plot.

In short, we find a film that does not tell a story but that poetizes a situation of incredible complexity, extremely dramatic, in which despite attending numerous discussions of the couple we do not get to know what has really happened, nor even as their lives were before or because they joined. We attend their magnificently choreographed dance rehearsals, just as the scenes of the couple's discussions of a huge dramatic density are well narrated, but they do not contribute much about the really deep of their lives. A work is more than a succession of good sequences.

Those who expect a work that allows them to understand their protagonists and understand the situation that they have had to live, will be disappointed, however, an approach based on dances to reggaeton rhythm and superbly shot and photographed scenes is enough, of great poetic density, they will enjoy it, but others after their previous works, we expected more from this director.


Synopsis Ema, a young dancer, decides to separate from Gastón after surrendering Polo for adoption, the son they both had adopted and were unable to raise. Desperate for the streets of the port of Valparaíso, Ema looks for new loves to placate the guilt. However, that is not his only objective, he also has a secret plan to recover everything.
country Chile
Address Pablo Larraín
Script Guillermo Calderón, Alejandro Moreno, Pablo Larraín
Music Nicolas Jaar
Photography Sergio Armstrong
Distribution Mariana Di Girolamo, Gael García Bernal, Santiago Cabrera, Giannina Fruttero, Catalina Saavedra, Eduardo Paxeco, Mariana Loyola, Paola Giannini, Antonia Giesen, Josefina Fiebelkorn, Susana Hidalgo
Gender Drama
Duration 102 min.
Original title Ema
Premiere 01/24/2020

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