The Holy Girl Movie Review

Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl has its finger on something for sure, it's just not quite sure what to do with it. An Argentinean film of rare beauty and smoldering sensuality, it's set in an old, family-run hotel where a medical conference is taking place. The young teenage girl of the title, Amalia (Maria Alché) lives in the hotel and is possessed of an uncommonly emotional religious fervor. There's an old European spirit to her spiritual devotion, which is brought to an even higher pitch by the church study sessions she attends after choir (in a different age, you almost feel that she would have found a way to get martyred, and there would be a church consecrated in her memory). But Amalia has little idea how to vent her feelings, other than in prayer and at her best friend and semi-girlfriend Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg), who seems to share both Amalia's religious passion and her romantic yearnings.

However, both girls have other outlets for their feelings. Josefina has a boy whom she allows to come over and have sex with her, but only if she's turned away from him and he doesn't talk. Amalia's passions take a darker bent one day when she's out in the street with a crowd watching a man playing a spooky piece on a Theremin, when one of the doctors in town for the conference comes up behind her and rubs up against her suggestively. They don't say a word and she barely sees him as he scurries off. In what most would take as an unfortunate turn of events, this Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso) is the man whom Amalia's mother Helena (the impossibly beautiful Mercedes Morán) decides to spark up a relationship with. But Amalia seems to take this as a challenge, as she sets about trying to save Dr. Jano from his own darker impulses, a mission that takes on certain romantic shadings the more involved she gets.

One would imagine that such a setup would have resulted in quite the little hothouse of deceit, forbidden desire and spiritualism, but Martel's film is far too content to amble about with its characters, barely shaping them into any appreciable courses of action. This is a film that can coast quite a long way simply on the strength of its look - a rich, velvety quietude - and its performances, all of which are heartfelt and filled with nuance. But somewhere along the way, it simply falls to spark into life, leaving the various elements of its story stranded along the way and failing to cohere into something as passionate as that which goes on inside Amalia's head. Martel is an uncommonly talented director, but as a storyteller she has quite some room left to grow.

Ultimately, what should have been a religious experience comes off more like a botched coming-of-age tale with some pungent atmospherics.

Aka La Niña santa.

Deep breaths, it'll pass.

Cast & Crew

Director :

Producer :

Comments

The Holy Girl Rating

" Weak "

Rating: R, 2004

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