Larrain’s willingness to skip narrative and film these long MTV sequences is the same kind of formal break with tradition that Ema’s trying to achieve. She’s embarking on a pansexual odyssey and he’s documenting it in whatever style he damn well pleases. The reggaeton gang is so in command of their desires and their sexuality that it becomes frankly intimidating. They get their hands on a flamethrower at some point and they love shooting ‘hot dinosaur cum’ to achieve posterized shots of themselves. Both character and director are burning it all down. That De Giroloma is so skilled and Larrain’s camera knows how to make her and her friends look as cool as possible turns Ema into a sensory feast, such that the story takes away from the dance interludes as opposed to the other way around.
Despite taking a backseat to Larrain’s flights of fancy, the story’s pretty great, too. Real-life stories about adoption abandonment draw media attention, and the rawness and shame of it guarantee that it’ll keep happening whenever the clicks are taking a dive. Nothing makes people turn their heads like women behaving badly, and taking a formal pass on motherhood is about as bad as a woman can behave in many circles. Ema and Gaston take a verbal beatdown from a furious social worker, and they have nothing to say in response to her. Ema’s reaction to a particular line about how the social worker knew they couldn’t do this alone is one of acceptance and acknowledgement, and there’s one solution to her problem in her mind. Once she’s become a gender outcast, other forms of female sin become undifferentiated. She already did the worst thing she could do, so who cares if she starts doing the fourth-worst?
Ema’s orgiastic bombast makes it an incredibly fun film to watch, not quite a musical but loaded with excellent tracks and choreography. Larrain’s Chilean films like Neruda and The Club have usually left me cold, but when hot dinosaur cum is blasting towards the camera, cold is not the adjective one would use. A-