Julia Erick Zonca

Julia Erick Zonca
For the most part, films that feature a morally reprehensible, anxiety-inducing protagonist filter the depiction through a conventional framework with comforting cinematography, a familiar score and narrative structure that reminds the audience that either judgment of reform is on the way. Julia, Erick Zonca's long awaited follow-up to 1998's Dreamlife of Angels, does none of this, offering an almost perverse, while sloppy and voyeuristic, look at a desperate alcoholic, justifying mortifying life decisions in between routine blackouts and sloppy come-ons. Said disaster is the titular Julia (played uncompromisingly and without condescension by Tilda Swinton), a woman of 40, squeezing into gaudy cocktail dresses with mismatched bra-straps visible and the occasional accidental nipple hanging out. After losing her job after one too many missed shifts and emotional outbursts, she engages with Elena (Kate del Castillo), a visibly unstable woman from her AA meetings. Their conversations lead to promises of money in exchange for a maternally motivated kidnapping, something most people would attribute to an escapist fantasy. Unfortunately, Julia, so lost in self-loathing and avoidance, takes empty promises too literally, digging herself an inescapable hole. Camerawork that splashes colours and textures without compassion follows with disturbing frankness the tying of a child to a radiator with the same distance as a ride up an elevator. Because of this, many viewers will find too much discomfort to appreciate how vehement, twisty and truly compelling the film is. While the inevitable arc could easily have come off as contrived, a sturdy handling of material and the thorough emotional investment of an unrecognizable Swinton manage to sell it. Those willing to endure a challenging viewing will surely be pleased. Included with the DVD are a trailer and some deleted scenes that add little to a film that, at almost two-and-a-half hours, never feels middling. (Mongrel Media)