Directed by Sebastian Silva
Chilean writer/director Sebastian Silva’s much anticipated festival hit Magic Magic premiered at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival this week, and it garnered a mixed reception from critics and filmgoers alike. The reasoning for this mainly stems from whether the viewers empathized with the seemingly normal supporting characters in the film or the troubled protagonist who descends into madness. Although this conflict of dividing the audience may seem like a serious flaw, it actually proves to be the film’s greatest strength as the state of confusion and utter bewilderment Silva put the audience in is a very intentional move on his part.
Magic Magic introduces the audience to Alicia (Temple), an awkward young woman who already feels the uncomfortable effects of culture clash when visiting her cousin Sarah (Browning) in Chile. Unfamiliar with the language and the social norms, she immediately makes a sour first impression on Sarah’s boyfriend Agustin (Silva), his apathetic sister Barbara (Moreno) and their eccentric and creepy friend Brink (Cera) moments before being forced to travel with them on a twelve-hour road trip (and boat ride) to a cottage getaway far away from civilization.
To make matters worse for poor Alicia, her cousin unexpectedly leaves to go back home to complete an exam (a blatant lie) for a couple of days and leaves Alicia stranded with the group of strangers who already make her feel far too uncomfortable as is.
During her stay at the cottage, she is exposed to Brink’s cruelty to animals, Agustin’s hypnotizing tricks and Barbara’s strict rules; and by the time Sarah makes it the cottage a couple of days later, Alicia displays signs of temporary insanity and the group grows more concerned for her well-being. Is Alicia under the effects of hypnotism, being gaslighted by Brink or simply suffering from an extreme mental disorder? The answer will be easily answered to some while also leaving many viewers in the dark, depending on their interpretation of the events that follow.
Considering the eerie premise and the equally discomforting trailer for Magic Magic, many viewers will be under the impression that this psychological thriller will focus on a far more evil storyline; however, Silva develops the misconception of the title with heart-rending and sardonic grandeur. Much like Aronofsky’s Black Swan, the film delves into the horror growing within Alicia rather than focusing its energy on the surroundings, and because of that it may disappoint those expecting to see a more conventional horror film.
All of the actors give spot-on performances, and Juno Temple (no stranger to socially inept roles) delivers an outstanding performance as the misunderstood lead; whereas, Michael Cera breaks out of his comedic comfortable zone by providing some much needed edge to his nerdy persona.
Magic Magic is not a film that can be easily digested after the first viewing as many will feel it’s a well-acted, yet pointless thriller simply made to make the viewers’ squirm uncomfortably in their seats. Although, days after watching the film, skeptics (just like this reviewer) are bound to feel guilty about not comprehending the foray of real-life horror Silva delves into so effortlessly.
4 out of 5