The Holy Girl

The Holy Girl is writer/director Lucrecia Martel's (La Cienaga) look at the collision of the Church and sexuality through the eyes of a young woman. Amalia (Maria Alche) is a young student at Catholic school, bored out of her mind. She and her friend Josefina (Julietta Zylberberg) are more likely to make fun of their lessons and schoolmates and teacher than pay attention. They are at the age where their sexuality is budding, and they are interested in exploring, or testing their own boundaries. Alche has a blank face often highlighted by an impish smirk, so it's difficult to figure out what her character is thinking.

She finds purpose when a man presses himself against her in a crowd. The experience is both shocking and exhilarating, and Amalia soon discovers that this man, Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso, Felicidades) lives in the same building as she does, and lives in the same building as she does. He is also befriending her mother Helena (Mercedes Moran, The Motorcycle Diaries, La Cienaga). It soon becomes Amalia's mission to 'save' Jano, and she begins following him and otherwise insinuating herself into his life. It's a bit uncomfortable for the audience and for Jano. Jano is scared because of the potential consequences to his reputation. The audience is baffled because nobody knows if Amalia knows what she is doing. Her actions and demeanor veer dangerously towards seduction. The stakes escalate once Amalia tells Josefina, and the rumors begin to spread.

This lack of understanding is heightened by Martel's minimal use of dialogue. Everything unfolds languidly, yet retains this aura of danger. The Holy Girl feels a lot like the films of David Gordon Green, but Martel is not able to keep the viewer interested. It will probably be extremely frustrating towards most viewers, because of the lack of speaking, lack of plot, and lack of resolution. Martel is working on a higher level, and is trying to force the audience to think about deeper issues. Amalia is confusing her awakening desires with religious fervor and playing a dangerous game in the process. She also wants to examine the influence of Catholicism on Amalia, and especially on her friend Josefina's own sexual identity. Nevertheless, The Holy Girl is a bit too emotionally detached, and it becomes a trek to try to make an emotional investment in watching this film.

Mongoose Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 46 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for some sexual content and brief nudity.

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