Published Jun 01, 2005If you're tired (as I am) of Hollywood's boring A-B-C narratives, Lucrecia Martel has come to your rescue. Her Holy Girl is not so much a melody as a riff, a swirling of consequences to one main event rather than a tedious trudge down a single narrative corridor for the prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box.
The event is the collision of a teenage girl and a rather perverted doctor, when the latter gropes the former in the street. For the girl, a slightly confused Catholic on the brink of sexual awakening, the incident is an occasion for horror and arousal, which naturally gets sublimated into a vocation to save the doctor's soul. The kernel of story is not the thing, but the reactions of her friends, the obliviousness of her divorced mother and the medical convention that's brought the doctor to town.
Martel is astoundingly subtle as she draws minor characters with a single illustrative gesture and captures a feeling of drift that's more familiar than the crunching eventfulness of conventional cinema. And while it gets its licks in on the distortions of religion (including a hilariously earnest catechism teacher), it treats it naturally and without the stridency of a bully pulpit.
It's so relaxed in everything it does (including, against all odds, its treatment of the normally hyped-up subject of teenage sexuality) that it feels like the ebb and flow of life rather than the purposeful thrust of a movie. Thus Martel distinguishes herself in a field of lesser (and less understated) dramatic filmmakers, leading us to a pensive calm in the hurricane of pop. (Alliance Atlantis)