Review: Pablo Larrain’s EMA Is Strong And Unpredictable

4 out of 5 stars

Chilean director Pablo Larrain follows-up 2016’s Natalie Portman starrer Jackie with Ema, another powerful drama about a woman over-coming loss and persevering after discovering her inner strength. 

Dancer Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) and her choreographer husband Gaston (Gael Garcia Bernal) are a couple whose relationship has disintegrated to the point of no return. The parents of an adoptive child, they have retuned him to the state after a fire which seriously injured Ema‘s sister. Ema regrets the decision and begins to put a plan in place to try and get her son back.   

Larrain is a director who knows how the power of music can help elevate a film. Much like Mica Levi’s exceptional score for Jackie, Nicolás Jaar’s music for Ema is the film’s driving force. Emotional and ethereal, Jaar’s score and the film’s reggaeton music moves the action forward in a way which helps us see the world through Ema‘s eyes. The music along with some well choreographed dance sequences give the film an intensity, which jolt the film’s deliberate pace like defibrillator. 

Mariana Di Girolamo delivers a fierce performance as the titular Ema. She gives the role a feral femininity, like a fierce animal who will do anything in an attempt to protect her offspring. However, there’s a childlike innocence to her which makes her plan seem unfocused and far from being a success. It’s a star-making making turn, which should garner Di Girolamo some serious kudos on the international film scene. 

Ema, is a powerful and provocative film from Pablo Larrain’s. It’s a richly layered character piece, which is a strong and unpredictable as its central character. 

Ema is on Mubi from 2 May 2020