‘Ema’: Dance The Pain Away or Fight Against It

Pablo Larraín’s Ema transcends many fields to create a somber piece about the loss of control of one’s life.

CREDIT: Fabula

I have been long overdue my exploration into the filmography of Pablo Larraín since I am really excited about his upcoming film with Kristen Stewart, Spencer, based on the life of Princess Diana that has been making lots of noise at the film festivals so far. Of course, this film is very different from what I imagine Spencer is going to be. Before this Larraín had made his academy award nominated film based on the life of First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Jackie. By looking at the synopsis you can tell that this a very different type of film and it was well worth the watch.

Ema looks at a tumultuous relationship between Ema (Mariana Di Girolamo) and Gastón (Gael García Bernal) after having to return their adopted son because of his pyromaniac behavior. Ema is a reggaetón dancer along with her other colleagues, while Gastón is a director of a dance company that does not align itself with the reggaetón style. Both of these two are very different individuals and leads to them having a different outlook on life and how to raise their child. The film is expertly shot by Sergio Armstrong with some exquisite framing especially of the dance scenes. The film also has some very tasteful and interesting lighting setups that help set up the atmosphere that these dancers find themselves in. Ema also includes some incredible musical compositions from Chilean American musician Nicolás Jaar that really makes this film’s sound and feeling unique. It is very influenced by an unorthodox style of reggaetón that does not sound nothing like the first or new wave of the genre.

The movie is wonderfully performed by our main protagonists, but I don’t think this movie is concerning itself with telling a tightly knit story more so examining the environment and what it means for those who want a little more out of this life. Ema is not your “normal” protagonist, but she does want things that all of us humans want. We want to be appreciated, understood, and most importantly given the chance to love or be loved. Ema does not go about it the right way to achieve most of these things especially given the overall plot and how she plans to take her child back. Throughout all of this there are two things that she knows that she at least loves, those being her child (both Polo and the eventual one she will have) and dancing. Both of these allow her to feel like the person she is and no one can take that from her. I found Ema to be a very surprising film and cannot wait for what else this director can offer.

Ema is available to rent on most video purchasing sites.

‘The Mole Agent’: A Heartbreaking But Unique Documentary

Chile’s official selection for the Best International Feature race at the 2021 Oscars is filled with nuance, heartbreak, and a conversation that needs to be started.

CREDIT: Micromundo Producciones

Why do we put our elders in nursing homes? I hope we start to ask ourselves that more often after 2020. These homes can be a nice spot for some, but it can be a really lonely place for those that stay there. Plus, one cannot ignore the history of elderly abuse that occurs in nursing homes. Maite Alberdi’s documentary urges us to ask ourselves, why would we place such important people in our lives in these institutions?

The Mole Agent (2020) looks at an investigation of possible elderly abuse happening at a nursing home after a daughter brings up her concerns that her mother may be abused at the facility. A private investigator seeks out an old man to go undercover and collect as much information as possible. While our protagonist collects information he starts to make friends and grow close to the people staying at the home. What he learns with this information is just as heartbreaking as possible elderly abuse.

Maite Alberdi directs one of the best films of the year and one of the biggest contenders to win next year’s Best International Feature. The film is tense and reflects one of a spy thriller but the documentarian backbone of the movie keeps it on its toes. The cinematography and naturalistic lighting is just right for this film. It all comes together to create the atmosphere of this unique film. What makes this movie special though and worth all of the hype critics are giving it? It is the writing and the people we meet within the film. Every single moment we spend with our protagonist as we learn more about the people who stay at the home allows us to learn more about what this facility does and how the people staying there feel about it. The stories and people we meet throughout the film are beautiful and carry such heartbreaking weight with them. Some of them have not been visited in years and have adopted a new family in the home with the friends they make there. It’s because of all this that The Mole Agent (2020) is beautiful and touches your heart especially those who have experience with these facilities. I know that once the credits started rolling and a bit of tears traveled down my cheeks I immediately thought of my abuelita. The film is magical yet so simple and because of that it works so well.

It is not as groundbreaking on the level that I thought I’m No Longer Here (2020) was but it is still such an important film to keep an eye out for it throughout this awards season. Watch The Mole Agent (2020) on virtual cinema at The Film at Lincoln Center.