09 January 2010

Review: "Julia"

Julia is the kind of film that is difficult to see in theatres. It stars Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton, whose performance in Michael Clayton has endeared me to her so much that I made a point to see this film. It is directed by Erick Zonca, and it is his first film in a decade and his first English-language film. It premiered at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival and was released in various European countries. Julia was not released in North American until April 2009 with little to no press. I would have never heard of the film if it were not for the Internet and the many film-related blogs that I read. In its review of the film, Variety reports that the film was inspired by John Cassavetes 1980 film Gloria, which starred Gena Rowlands in an Oscar-nominated performance. The film is entirely dependent on Tilda Swinton, and she anchors the film brilliantly. While the film may begin a certain way, depicting Julia as a degenerate alcoholic, it transforms into a thrilling and provoking film that leaves you breathless.

Julia has just been fired from her job because she is not dependable. Every night is spent drinking and every morning she wakes up in a different bed. She does go to AA, but she seems to enjoy drinking and has no reason to change her lifestyle. Unemployed, she begins to run out of money. She meets a young woman, Elena (Katie de Castillo), at an AA meeting. Elena knows that Julia is a drunk and has seen her passed out in her car. Elena has lost custody of her young son, and he is living with his wealthy grandfather. Elena wants Julia to kidnap her son, and offers her $50 000 for it. While not immediately agreeing to the kidnapping, Julia begins to plan an even greater scheme to get more money. Julia is a dark and complex film that highlights Julia's instability and brings the audience on a wild ride that leads to an unexpected conclusion. The film co-stars Aiden Gould as Tom, Elena's young son, and Saul Rubinek as as friend of Julia's, the conscience of the film.

Julia does not feel as long as its two and a half hour length, it is a tremendously exciting film that left me feeling exhilarated and out of breath. The film completely belongs to Tilda Swinton, and she owns every scene. Her character is complicated and often unsure of herself, and she is able to demonstrate that in her character. Julia may not be easy to like and she has a minimal view of ethics, but while we may not agree with her actions we are willing to help her fight to the end. What starts as a depressing and bleak character study, Julia becomes an intense and smartly directed thriller that twists and turns until the very end.

My rating: 4 stars out of 4.

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