Projections - Movie Reviews

The Holy Girl

Maria Alche, Carlos Bellose and Mercedes Moran

Rated: R
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 29, 2005 Released by: Fine Line/HBO Films

This subconscious-like drama from Lucrecia Martel, in Spanish with English subtitles, is intimate and moody in chronicling the waifish Amalia, maturely acted by Maria Alche.

Amalia is the titular person in question, and Martel (director of La Cienaga), in "La Nina Santa" looks closely at the obsession that develops from the struggle of spirituality and sexual desire. This pious 16-year-old will engage in an unusual, unsettling relationship with a country doctor Jano, played by Carlos Belloso.

The infatuation for the teen builds after he rubs against her in the street, but is complicated by the fact that she thinks God wants her to redeem Jano from himself. Her Catholic mission will be a struggle as the unwitting doctor has a sultry experience with her mother Helena (Mercedes Moran).

It's hard not to feel the passion from the characters in this tightly-knit look during a week-long medical conference at a ramshackled Argentinian hotel. The humid climate, as in "The Swamp", renders a clammy setting, and is a take off point to show how mother and daughter are affected by Jano's mid-life crisis.

The divine and prurience are enjoined in an awkward coming-of-age way with detailed, ambiguous conversation not as important as the actions around them. Will Amalia derail Jano's lewdful ways? The Holy Girl is structured unconventionally for most without a high point near the end, but it may not be the point as it is a bold observance from innocence to adulthood.

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