France/USA/Mexico/Belgium, 2008, 144 minutes
Sat, May 01 / 5:30 / Castro / AWAR01C
Erick Zonca’s character-driven thriller barrels straight into the vile, sleazy wasteland occupied by its abrasive protagonist, and forces the viewer to watch her tailspin in all its carnage without letting up. Played with relentless conviction by the ever-daring Tilda Swinton, Julia no doubt has seen better days. Emotionally barren, self-destructive and furiously lonely, she lunges from one grimy bender to the next, spending most of her time getting blackout drunk and waking up next to strangers while precariously careening to whatever job she can still hold down. Blaming the world for her rotten lot in life and plagued with financial woes, she seizes an opportunity to turn things around after a meeting with her unstable neighbor Elena, who draws Julia into a plan to kidnap her son from his wealthy paternal grandfather. Planning her own double cross, Julia goes through with the kidnapping and flees with the boy, veering even more startlingly out of control. With the John Cassavetes drama Gloria (1980) as inspiration, Zonca crafts his own authentic emotional intensity in his first feature since 1998’s highly acclaimed The Dreamlife of Angels. The film lays bare the depths of a degenerate while explosively fusing genres to construct a thought-provoking and utterly captivating narrative. But the real treat comes from watching Swinton effortlessly create a wholly unlikeable character simultaneously helpless and monstrous, victimized and revolting, sickeningly manipulative and, ultimately, entirely unforgettable.