- Colin Fraser
THREE STARS Ema is a fiery soul who's doing everything she can to suppress a pain deep inside.
DRAMA Chile Spanish Language #EMA
Mariana Di Girólamo, Gael Garcia Bernal
Ema (Mariana Di Girólamo) is a feisty young woman, a teacher and part-time modern dancer. Married to the older Gastón (Gael Garcia Bernal - THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES), himself a dance instructor, the couple have found themselves in an emotional cul-de-sac. Aware that the good years are behind them, they’re trying various things to save their marriage, including an open relationship. It’s not really working, a situation further complicated by having chosen to give their adopted son, a Colombian refugee, back to the agency.
Accordingly, Ema is out there and Di Girómalo plays her for all she’s worth. With dyed hair, punky clothes, drugs, sex and manic energy, she is a head turner, but none of this fills the hole in her life left by their son Polo. Meanwhile Gastón regards her behaviour with a stony calm. He has lost any respect for her dancing and, in one compelling scene, opens up. He may have a point, the flash mob gyrations her group enthuse about are derivative at best. Perhaps that’s the point, or perhaps director Pablo Larrain is missing the point. It’s hard to tell.
But if Ema and her ardent followers are actually as good as they think they are, instead of merely exhibiting a maniacal commitment in sequences far too long to remain interesting, then her creative career, and by extension her life, might have been more fulfilling. Again, it’s hard to tell if Ema over committed to her pain or Larrain unable to commit to his characters.
It’s perplexing, especially given the esteemed Chilean director’s track record that includes NO (also starring Bernal), a fascinating exploration of advertising and the art of politics. EMA retains some of his signature originality but without the clarity required to bring Ema and her friends out of the shadows. It doesn’t help that they are all, without exception, unlikeable and stuck firmly in a repetitive cycle. They are tiresome characters and after nearly two hours in the cinema, exhausting company.