Julia

Quietly ushered into Auckland cinemas, Erick Zonca—whose last major picture was The Dreamlife of Angels more than ten years ago—showcases Tilda Swinton in one of the best performances in recent memory. In the title role, Swinton plays an out-of-control pathological liar and alcoholic whose every action is an attempt—mindful or not—to destroy herself. When Julia’s clearly insane neighbour asks her to help kidnap her son from his rich but frail grandfather, she goes along with it—what else does she have to lose? She flees with the boy to Mexico, hoping to reunite him with his mother, but drug lords and extortion plots envelop her like so much quicksand, and the skills to find an exit prove elusive. While it is overall about half an hour too long and resolves in a somewhat hastily-compiled climax, much of the film is terrific: the supporting players are superbly cast, and the high-contrast cinematography, by Yorick Le Saux, recalls Robby Müller’s work on Paris, Texas. Although the story is far from upbeat, Julia is worth seeing for Swinton’s performance alone: eschewing many of her usual mannerisms, she embodies the character spectacularly.

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