(director/writer: Pablo Larraín; screenwriters: Guillermo Calderón, Alejandro Moreno; cinematographer: Sergio Armstrong; editor: Sebastian Sepulveda; music: Nicolas Jaar; cast: Mariana Di Girolamo (Ema), Gael García Bernal (Gaston), Santiago Cabrera (Anibal), Cristian Suarez (Polo), Paola Giannini (Raquel), Catalina Saavedra (Marcela); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Juan De Dios Larrain; Music Box Films; 2019-Chile-in Spanish with English subtitles)
“Finely tuned sexually-charged mix of camp and melodrama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The notable Chilean director Pablo Larraín (“Jackie”/”Neruda”) is co-writer with Guillermo Calderón and Alejandro Moreno of this finely tuned sexually-charged mix of camp and melodrama.
It’s set in the bustling port city of Valparaiso. The bleached hair-styled dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) and the modern dance choreographer Gaston (Gael Garcia Bernal) are a young estranged married couple who still work together at the local dance company. The couple still blame each other for messing up the adoption of their troubled six-year-old Colombian son Polo (Cristian Suarez), someone they both dearly loved despite that he tried burning down their house, badly burned his aunt’s face and at another time placed the dog inside the freezer. They abandoned him and he has now been returned to the orphanage, but has been adopted by the firefighter Anibal (Santiago Cabrera) and divorce lawyer Raquel (Paola Giannini). Since we only hear about Polo from his adoptive parents and never see him until after 40 minutes, we have no real idea if he’s a monster or a victim of poor parenting.
The couple have an ongoing squabble and, even though it’s evident they still love each other, they are seeing others.
The film turns on the exhilarating dancing (called reggaeton, a Puerto Rican hybrid of hip hop and Caribbean influences), on the highly emotional scenes that insanely depict a toxic relationship and the wild Ema’s liberation from conventional behavior through group sex.
It could exist solely as a musical video if it abandoned its story. The alluring cinematography of Sergio Armstrong keeps you eye-balling the risque dance moves, even if you maybe have had it with the dancer’s constant gripes.
REVIEWED ON 4/26/2020 GRADE: B