Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


The Truth About Emanuel

The Truth About Emanuel
Starring:
Kaya Scodelario, Jessica Biel and Alfred Molina


Rated: No rating 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: January 10, 2014 Released by: Tribeca Film

A curious, if mostly well-paced drama that mishandles the psychological realism around a friendship evolving from familial loss doesn't combine the imaginative flights of fantasy and narrative turns into profitable theatrical viewing. Maybe more viable to download or in the more common <V.O.D.> format.

The nominally altered The Truth About Emanuel stars Kaya Scodelario and Jessica Biel, whose diaphanous turn matches her outfits with a bangy hairdo playing against type as seen in romantic or action mainstream features.

You could tell director and co-scenarist Francesca Gregorina does what she can with the material to burrow into female interaction, but an overcooked superficiality and finally a palliative conventionality reigns in what may be considered by some to be stylishly quirky.

Scodelario's eponymous character is an antisocial teen just turning eighteen still coping with the loss of her mother who died while giving birth to her. Her surly, cynical nature is reflected in an opening voiceover mentioning that she is "a murderer without a motive." A shot of a doctor also renders the sequence unpleasant and maladroit which the film never really skillfully maneuvers into a purer, authentic stance.

Emanuel has the male spelling but that is "what she was supposed to be" and extends her guilt towards an understanding dad (Alfred Molina) as well as his new wife, a probing, uptight Frances O'Connor who inadvertently augments her stepdaughter's grief.

The crux of the picture revolves around Emanuel's growing bond with new next-door neighbor and mother to "infant" Chloe, Linda (Biel), when finds the need for sitting duties. She'll get a new view on parenthood and perpetuates a secret Linda has that the new mother thinks others won't get onto, especially when interest grows about Chloe.

More could be revealed about the facsimile in the above description without really giving anything away, but it's hard to warm up to something that never really takes hold in spite of momentary acerbic or visual flair. Probably no fault of Scodelario who is just exuding the cold, abrasive nature of Emanuel which dampens what really isn't well emphasized as an adult-minded fable. Its surreal asides could have been more properly positioned or edited to fuller effect and even supporting players like Aneurin Barnard as a possible beau on transit could have been better used.

Even with a suitably melancholic score, The Truth About Emanuel isn't the darkly mesmerizing cinema it must have thought it could be, not exploring its themes and as well as sides to its characters. Instead, it strains in a way that preciously and indulgently puts salt on the wounds of taut moral ambiguity.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
The Truth About Emanuel        C                     C 

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