Stars: Juno Temple, Emily Browning , Michael Cera, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Agustín Silva | Written and Directed by Sebastian Silva
Review by Andrew MacArthur of The Peoples Movies
Sebastian Silva’s Magic Magic is perhaps one of the more enigmatic features of this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, so enigmatic in fact, that many viewers may be left rather unfulfilled by this South American head trip.
Magic Magic follows timid Alicia (Juno Temple), who is sent on vacation to Chile with her friend Sarah (Emily Browning). However after being introduced to Sarah’s friends and becoming an object of ridicule by one of them (Brink played by Michael Cera), Alicia’s anxiety begins to takeover and she starts to mentally unravel.
Silva’s feature is a slow-building one, opening with Alicia’s arrival in Chile and her first meeting with Sarah’s friends which immediately crafts an aura of uneasiness. When travelling to their lodgings, Silva soundtracks the group’s journey with growling classic blues music and unnerving dog yelping when they pick up then subsequently abandon an ill puppy. This immediately gives an indicator of the frantic, chaotic style that Magic Magic builds towards. However, the main source of this unease is Michael Cera’s darkly camp performance as Brink – his actions around Alicia always seem somewhat sinister with suggestions of ulterior, darker motivations.
Silva continues to suspensefully build this unease when the group arrive at their destination – a Chilean beach house. Here Alicia is pressured into diving, attacked by a dog, hypnotised, and comes face to face with (thoroughly underdeveloped) suggestions of voodoo – all leading to her mental breakdown. However, Magic Magic does seem to lack a clear narrative direction – Silva’s feature has a tendency to loosely drift from one sequence to the next – lacking in any solid thrills or anything disturbing enough to merit Alicia’s breakdown. This is best showcased in the conclusion which uses these underdeveloped voodoo elements in a confusing, frenzied and chaotic style.
Juno Temple provides a mentally stripped back performance that feels so authentic that it proves a challenge to watch at many points. This can be seen in her encounters with Brink who appears to manipulate Alicia’s fragile state for his own pleasure.
This tendency to drift and lack of clear narrative drive – not to mention the lack of a solid conclusion, may make Magic Magic frustrating for many viewers. However, if willing to embrace the unnerving, drifting style and gradual psychological thrills behind the feature – you may find it a slightly more enjoyable watch.