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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tribeca Review: EMELIE

Little Boy (Thomas Bair) and Girl (Sarah Bolger) Cinematographer: Luca Del Puppo
2015, 80 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Michael Thelin's Emilie is an unnerving film that provokes discomfort similar to that of Craig Zobel's 2012 nail-biter, Compliance. Emilie begins with a discomforting single-take scene in which a girl is lured to a car and kidnapped, and the detached viewpoint from which the scene is shot sets the tone for the rest of the film. While this film will be polarizing due to its disturbing content, it's an undeniably impressive debut for Thelin and a phenomenal showcase for its child actors and Sarah Bolger.

It is best going into Emelie knowing nothing, so I will refrain from including any description of the story in this review.

Until the muddled, clichéd final act (which is still entertaining), Emelie is a restrained thriller that announces Michael Thelin as a talent to watch. Despite the potential for this film's material to be exploitative, Thelin handles it with nuance and realism. He creates an atmosphere of dread by withholding key information for as long as he can. This keeps the audience in suspense, provoking anxiety.

Where Thelin falls, though, is in the final act where the storytelling becomes slightly muddled and clichéd. Emelie plays all of its cards at once in the final act, which deflates the intensity that Thelin had built up and cheapens the impact of film. These missteps don't ruin the film, but it was saddening to see such a promising setup have such a generic payoff.

The performances of Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, Carly Adams, and Thomas Bair are astonishing. Bolger impressed over a decade ago with her heartfelt performance in Jim Sheridan's In America, and she impresses again with her unhinged portrayal of the eponymous character here. Rush, Adams, and Bair portray three young siblings under the "care" of Bolger's Emelie. Their respective performances are frighteningly realistic.

Overall, Emelie is a strong calling card for director Michael Thelin, cinematographer Luca Del Puppo (his dark cinematography evokes 1970s thrillers), and the lead actors. Thelin has what it takes to create a great thriller, and with more films, he will hone his craft. Right now, he's an exciting new director to keep an eye on.


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