Ema Review: Raw, Beautiful and Terrifying

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Ema is a Chilean drama film directed by Pablo Larraín, and starring Mariana Di Girolamo, Cristian Suares, Gael García Bernal, Paola Giannini and Santiago Cabrera.

Sights and sounds

Ema is a lot to take in. No seriously, it’s probably not for the faint-hearted. It talks about a lot of difficult topics that might not be for everyone.

The movie follows Ema and Gaston, who gave up their adopted son after a tragedy. However, the guilt of the action causes their marriage to fall apart. This is when Ema starts to rebel against the society around her, and does everything in her power to get her son back.

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Ema is a twisted movie – it’s visually stunning and sounds out of this world. Every scene is like a piece of art, with the camera angles and colours along with the heart-thumping background score. It’s beautiful but very difficult to look at. Ema and Gaston’s relationship is honestly toxic in every way. They blame each other for a problem that is both of their fault – and say horrible things to each other. However, when she leaves, oh boy, it’s mayhem. She seduces, manipulates, cheats on and does everything that she can do to get back in Polo’s life. There’s also a flamethrower in the midst of all this.

There’s also some insane amount of sexual activity here. Don’t be fooled by the naïve first half. The second half goes down a sexual rabbit hole. It’s a way for Ema to free herself from any inhibitions that have tried to hold her down. It’s liberating. She’s not afraid to experiment, and she is extremely possessive. However, it’s probably not for the squeamish ones.

All for love?


Mariana Di Girolamo does a fascinating job as Ema. She’s vulnerable but fierce and untameable. She’s not afraid to wreak havoc to be close to whom she loves. Throughout the movie, it’s impossible to put her and her relationship with Gaston in a box. She and her emotions are not transparent. She selfishly manipulates and seduces almost everyone around her – and it’s fascinating, and sometimes horrifying, to watch. She is also a fiercely beautiful dancer, and uses it to be free.

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On the other hand, Gael García Bernal is always a vision to look at – be it those beautiful eyes, or his equally charming performance. His relationship with his wife is toxic at and disturbing. But they can’t live with each other, nor without. Their relationship makes your skin crawl, but you know why they’re together.

The last part of Ema is also very thrilling. It’s mind-blowing how she manipulates and plans out everything in order to reach her goal.

Summing up: Ema

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Ema is a rollercoaster of emotions that touches on very painful topics. There’s this huge generation gap between the Ema and Gaston that results in a lot of painful fights, the toxicity and heartbreak of the situation, her need to rebel against traditional institutions, and the shocking and sensual way she goes about causing some major mayhem. She breaks hearts wherever she goes, but it always feels lie she’s the one in most pain. She’s fascinating and terrifying, and it’s difficult to not fall under her spell.

The entire movie is washed in strong reds, blues, neons and oranges. The colours add to the despair and severity of everyone’s emotions. Sexually charged and drowning in grief, Ema is for everyone who can take extremes.

Ema is streaming on Mubi.

Further Reading: The F**k-It List, Hamilton, JU-ON Origins, and more.

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Ema is a drama by Pablo Larraín, and it is fascinating and terrifying. It's a sensual and grief-stricken emotional rollercoaster ride. You wouldn't want to get off of it, neither will you want to stay on it.

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