Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
Directed by: Erick Zonca
Running time: 138 mins.
Release date: May 8, 2009
Genre: Drama, Thriller and Gangster (English & Spanish with English subtitles)
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
MPAA Rating: R
Writer/Director Erick Zonca of La Vie Revee des Anges (The Dreamlife of Angels, 1998) was a huge success with critics and audiences alike. He is now inspired by John Cassavetes' 1980 film Gloria starring Gena Rowland (Cassavetes wife) in which female lead character Tilda Swinton (two-time Golden Globe nominee) dominates from the first frame to the last.
In a film that crosses borders in genres from a drama, a thriller, a crime/gangster and a film noir Tilda Swinton plays Julia. She is a 40 year old alcoholic, pill popping over-the-hill party girl. Her life is slipping away and going out of control from the every night partying, and then waking up in unknown places without a memory of the previous night. She is a woman who believes she can fool anyone with lies and scams.
As a result of her uncontrollable lifestyle, she loses another menial job. Her friend Mitch (Saul Rubinek) advises her to attend AA, where she meets her Mexican neighbor Elena (Kate del Castillo). After another alcohol induced "black out" night, Julia wakes up in Elena's home. Elena propositions Julia for $50,000 to assist in the kidnapping her 9 year old son Tommy (Aidan Gould) from his wealthy grandfather in Mexico. Julia doesn't realize that Elena has a history of psychosis, and she doesn't have the money. However, young fatherless Tommy's grandfather does have money, and that's reason enough for Julia to risk this alone for financial gain.
It is amazing to watch Tilda Swinton's energy in this film. She shows vitality, and is very physical in her performance throughout movie. The opening scenes display all of the elements of a character study of a troubled woman that most people would turn their backs on. However as the story unfolds the audience will take a cinematic journey with a complex woman. Casting her as a hard-boiled title character was a mark of genius. Erick Zonca wrote and directed a tightly-plotted multi-genre tale that she certainly looks natural in and does not lead the audience by the hand.
Aidan Gould plays 9 year old Tommy, the grandson of Elena's father-in-law. He is quirky, yet sharp, and gives a outstanding performance. Tommy's grandfather is a wealthy Mexican crime czar who has ties in the U.S.. When Julia kidnaps Tommy from Mexico, returns to the U.S./American border, and blackmails the grandfather for 2 million dollars, he alerts U.S. and the Mexican authorities and the chase scene begins. Not leaving any room for doubt, the grandfather sends his goons. Foul-mouth Julia and mischievous Tommy spend quite a bit of time together on the run. He is a bright active boy and proves himself as her match. She becomes the unexpected guardian of a young boy.
Julia finds herself protecting herself from a wicked world armed with just her wits and a revolver. This film for some people might be considered an invented story, perhaps the kind you don't expect in life. However, cinema is larger than life. By using classical means of storytelling and a visual narration, this movie creates a morality theme between Julia and young Tommy. What is most interesting is that Julia's pursuers are outclassed by a woman whose maternal instincts have been aroused, and she will do anything to protect this tough little guy she's trying to keep out of harm's way.
This movie is highly recommended to those who enjoy being surprised. I picked up on clues as to one major plot twist early on (hoping I would be wrong); however, I was only partly right. You might think you figured it out, but with the many twists in this flick, you'll find the final scenes a surprisingly delight to watch.
FILM RATING (A)