Movie #348 2020: Ema (2019)

It feels like a while since there’s been a weird indie movie on The Quayside Review. It also feels like a while since there’s been something one would categorise as ‘World Cinema’ here. So let’s head over to Chile, shall we?

Ema is a mind fuck from its opening sequence. Letterboxd.com describes the movie as follows:

A couple deals with the aftermath of an adoption that goes awry as their household falls apart.

Well. That’s a red herring if I ever did see one. The synopsis should be: A couple faces societal judgment when they ‘send their adopted son back’ to the orphanage. What follows after that is simply insane. There are orgies, intensely deep dance numbers, fiery arguments… It’s such a wild ride. Honestly, it would be impossible to say any more without spoiling anything.

I went into this blind, which is probably the best way to do it. All I had was the above description and a Mark Kermode review that heavily focused on how much he loved the dancing. I’ll do my best not to expand to much on the ins and outs of this so you can do the same. First, you’ll be immediately wowed by the shot of a burning traffic light. Beautiful, balmy evening aesthetics right off the bat. Completely invested straight away, which rarely happens for me.

Being a dancer in a past life, every dance sequence here was joyous for me to witness. Kermode was right, albeit not the only great thing about the movie. Not only is the choreography unique and effortlessly staged in such an original way, the music lighting act as such a brilliant enhancer of the movement on screen. Just see the photo still used above for an example.

Pivotal to a successful movie that involves dance is excellent cinematography. Even the regular dialogue-filled scenes are brilliantly shot with pinpoint precision and focus that it felt more like an art exhibition than a movie. Just so innovative visually that I wish I knew the technical side of it all, right down to which camera equipment they used. It’s truly like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

There’s something less pretentious and simply more cultural about Ema that’s just so difficult to define. Everything about it is so edgy and the score absolutely pulsates through the sound waves. If you’re a creative soul who loves the arts in every form, from theatre to dance to music, you’ll love this. 

The plot itself is kind of complex and not always easy to follow, but there’s a really twisted and complicated story beneath it all. Lead actress Mariana Di Girolamo is outstanding as the purposely unlikeable Ema too, and someone I’ll definitely be looking out for in the near future.

…and it was much gayer than I was expecting too 👀

Ema is available to stream on All4 in the UK, but be quick! It’s only available for 2 more weeks!

TQR Category Ratings:

Performance: 
Cinematography: 
Soundtrack: 
Costume & Set Design: 
Plot: 
Overall Enjoyability Rating: 

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