Everything Ema touches ignites. Man, women, child, building, city, work of art – all of it seems under her spell and sure to be destroyed. Mariaana Di Girólamo is terrific as a young dancer whose foster child is accused of an act of arson that nearly burnt down her house and maimed her sister. Gael García Bernal is her creative and personal partner.
But it is Ema who carries a blowtorch through the city, and we see beautiful fires - a stop light suspended over a street, a fire dance along the harbor’s dance – which in the time we live in seems even more menacing.
I had a hard time sorting out the reality of the situation, and what filmmaker Pablo Larraín intentions are. The dance sections of the film are powerful, but Ema is so tortured and difficult, I found it hard to cheer her on. And the end, in which the child she has been seeking is miraculously found in a class full of students, is very moving. But that emotion was undercut by their very unbelievable escape from school, not knowing if the future were hopeful, or the past was true.
EMA is featured at Reeling Film Fest.