‘Murina’ Review: A Sinister, Sunny Croatian Coming-of-Age Story

If Patricia Highsmith had ever written a coming-of-age story set on the rocky, clear-watered Croatian shoreline, it may need regarded so much like Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s brilliant, brooding debut, “Murina,” which quietly, with a sinister Adriatic sparkle, makes the compelling case that even with out labyrinthine homicide plots or hard-bitten non-public eyes, a younger woman’s passage into maturity will be the right, darkly dazzling automobile for a sunshine noir.

As at dwelling within the water as out of it — in truth the ocean is possibly her refuge from extra harmful currents of life on land — Julija (Gracija Filipovic) is the lithe, surly teenage daughter of gorgeous, sad, trapped Nela (Danica Curcic). The key supply of pressure within the household is Julija’s controlling, domineering father, Ante (Leon Lucev), the extent of whose abusiveness is difficult to gauge, however who definitely expects submission and obedience of his womenfolk, and who diminishes Julija and scorns any ambitions she may need for something however the future he has deliberate for her. Julija is starting to bristle beneath his despotic rule over the secluded cove the place they stay their frugal lives — Kusijanović and Frank Graziano’s sharply observant script, delivered to scintillating life by DP Hélène Louvart’s gorgeously stopped-down, moody cinematography, is particularly attuned to the torpor and frustrations of dwelling on a regular basis life in a spot a passing vacationer would possibly mistake for paradise.

Julija’s riot manifests in small methods. She sulks about having to go spearfishing with Ante, and when he has her recite a poem as an leisure for his company, she intentionally omits the road by which she should beg the ocean to return her voyaging father to her. However the chafing additionally encroaches on her relationship together with her mom, whom Julija appears in charge for being with Ante in any respect. “You’ll simply put on no matter he tells you to anyway,” she snaps contemptuously as Nela tries to decide on an outfit for the feast Ante has organized, at which Julija herself, a lot to her seen discomfort, can be compelled to put on a costume as an alternative of her normal ensemble of easy bathing swimsuit and salt-mussed hair.

The Electra-complex undercurrents solely get stronger with the arrival of the charismatic, rich Javier (Cliff Curtis), an previous affiliate of Ante’s who additionally has a romantic historical past with Nela. Julija doesn’t appear to know if she’s drawn to Javier as a possible lover or as a possible father determine — she each encourages her mom to return his evident attraction and pursues alternatives to be alone with him herself — nevertheless it’s clear that for her, he symbolizes escape, and the larger life that she’s certain lies in watch for her simply over the blue horizon.

“Murina” is rife with symbolism, nevertheless it’s a mark of Kusijanović’s command — an astonishing high quality for a first-time function director — that the recurring motifs and metaphors are worn so evenly and really feel so natural to the movie’s microcosmic universe. The moray fish that offers the movie its title, for instance, is just not solely an area delicacy for which Ante and Julija regularly go searching; it’s also a solitary, territorial species, with sharp enamel and a chunk that may be poisonous to people. The ocean, too, holds contradictory meanings that tug on the edges of the movie just like the tides: the glistening expanse shot by Louvart as if it had been its personal dwelling entity with changeable moods and capricious character, is Julija’s freedom, however it’s also her jail. And like her overbearing father, it offers for her whereas being eternally, powerfully harmful.

All this environment, the evocative sound design and the occasional dreamlike underwater sequence make what is sort of a Spartan, merely plotted movie really feel full, sleekly changeable in several gentle, like an eel. The uniformly glorious forged breathe life into characters who would possibly on the web page appear underdeveloped, with the 2 ladies outlining a uniquely unusual and strained mother-daughter bond (“Sooner or later you’ll perceive all I do for you,” Nela says cryptically to Julija in an uncommon flash of mood). And the 2 males, buddies who’re actually rivals for alpha standing, turn into consultant of the in a different way poisonous masculinities that outline the patriarchal grownup world that Julija is about to enter, and by which Nela has lived for thus lengthy: the person who comes wreathed within the glamour of guarantees he won’t ever hold after which disappears, versus the person who guarantees nothing however domination and cruelty however stays the course. It’s, on this stretch of sunny, spooky, glittery shoreline, a alternative between the satan and the deep blue sea.

https://selection.com/2021/movie/reviews/murina-review-1235027930/ | ‘Murina’ Review: A Sinister, Sunny Croatian Coming-of-Age Story


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