Director: Sebastian Silva.
Starring: Juno Temple, Michael Cera, Emily Browning, Agustin Silva, Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Running Time: 97 minutes.
Synopsis: Alicia (Juno Temple) finds herself mentally unravelling in remote Chile, leaving those around her questioning her sanity or whether it’s all an act.
One of two Chilean-set films directed by Sebastian Silva this year, MAGIC MAGIC is a darkly comic, ambitious psychological study that is all the richer for its bold, divisive risks.
Sent by her family to stay with cousin Sarah (Emily Browning) for unknown reasons, the introductory idyllic, watery Chilean landscapes are a far cry from the bleak, sinister tones that soon override proceedings. Though appearing in trailers as a horror that takes place on a remote island, MAGIC MAGIC spends far more time concerned with the slow burning unravelling of Alicia’s mind than the eerie or supernatural.
Left alone with Sarah’s boyfriend and friends while her cousin has to return to school, an already frayed Alicia struggles to keep a composed façade around strangers. Unable to sleep, we share Alicia’s sense of a heavily fractured and confounding narrative as no work and no play send her over the edge. Giving another phenomenal turn, acting wunderkind Juno Temple impresses as the tragic central figure, with moments that see her restrained as remarkable as they are difficult to behold.
Also starring in Silva’s other 2014 offering, CRYSTAL FAIRY, Michael Cera gives a career best performance as the creepy and effeminate Brink; a quirky indie kid who flits between English and Spanish. A character whose mentality surely needs questioning, his offbeat humour provides refuge whenever things get a little too dark.
Alicia’s psychological traumas may border on the laughable as Silva works toward his frustrating conclusion, but the director must be applauded for his reluctance to provide a solution to the unnerving events. An unnecessary piece of backstory regarding Sarah and the need to sexualise Alicia’s nighttime walks will split its audience, but this is a tonally skewed film that definitely isn’t for everyone.
Often hilarious, but always in a dark, semi-unknowing way, MAGIC MAGIC is not an easy film to like. Threatening to sever any semblance of compassion afforded to Alicia and those that surround her, the ending is just as ambiguous as you’d expect from a film that isn’t keen on providing answers.
(4 / 5) MAGIC MAGIC is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18th April.