‘Ema’ Review: Pablo Larrain’s Erotic, Pyromantic Dance

A powerful young dancer, Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) pursues the adopted child she had previously sent away, utilising her sexuality, her gang of dancing friends and a flame thrower. Facing opposition from the state, her family and her ex-husband Gaston (Gael Garcia Bernal), Ema must overcome guilt and trauma to become her best self.

Ema is a fascinating character study of a young woman prepared to do whatever it takes to reclaim a life she regrets giving up. It’s about her attempts to explore her identity . She is sometimes the hero, sometimes the villain but is always fascinating in her actions and goals. Mariana Di Girolamo is compelling and captivating in the lead role. Her actions sometimes seem unmotivated and chaotic but she’s pursuing a singular goal through bizarre methods.

It’s also a film about dance. The act of dancing forms an important aspect of both the story and Ema’s character. It’s a barrier between her and her husband but also a hypnotic superpower that allows her to seduce the people around her and forge powerful connections to her fellow dancers. The dance sequences are energetically realised with dreamlike fluidity.

Ema is an eccentric, beautiful and sometimes disturbing portrait of a woman using dance to explore herself and the world. It’s a hypnotic and thoroughly engaging exploration of character that will definitely reward repeat viewing.

Four Stars

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