Magic Magic (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/09/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 97 mins

Impressively directed, beautifully shot and sharply written, Magic Magic is a disturbing, Polanski-esque psychological horror with stunning sound design and a pair of terrific performances from Juno Temple and Michael Cera.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Sebastian Silva, Magic Magic stars Juno Temple as Alicia, an American college student who's come to Chile to visit her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning). However, no sooner has Alicia arrived than Sarah jets off to attend to a personal issue, leaving her in the care of her Chilean boyfriend Agustin (Agustin Silva, the director's younger brother), his weirdly hostile sister Barbara (Catalina Sandino Moreno) and obnoxious, attention-seeking, Spanish-speaking American Brink (Michael Cera), as they travel south for a few days.

Already something of a fragile, awkward character, Alicia becomes increasingly anxious and paranoid as their journey continues, a state of mind that's exacerbated by jet-lag-induced insomnia, her unfamiliar surroundings and the increasingly off-kilter behaviour of her sister's friends (Agustin is obsessed with hypnotism, Brink likes shooting parrots etc). But is she having a nervous breakdown or is something more sinister going on?

The Good
Juno Temple is fast becoming one of Britain's best young actresses and she turns in a terrific performance as Alicia, cleverly pitching it so that the audience initially registers her aching vulnerability but also sympathises a little with Sarah's friends when they dismiss her as a neurotic weirdo. However, as Magic Magic continues, Temple's performance becomes progressively more disturbing to watch, like a modern day version of Catherine Deneuve's character in Polanski's Repulsion.

The supporting cast are equally good, particularly Michael Cera, who brilliantly subverts his usual screen persona and delivers a career-best performance in the process: Brink is a deliciously dark creation, constantly flipping between brattish, attention-seeking behaviour, child-like spitefulness, insane giggling fits and an intense sexual jealousy (he seems to be obsessed with Agustin).

The Great
Silva's sharply written script is excellent, with character moments that are darkly funny. It also skilfully presents events from Alicia's point of view and makes the audience work for information, rather than spelling everything out; for example, you have to be paying close attention to work out the real reason that Sarah leaves, but the clues are there.

Magic Magic is also beautifully shot throughout, with cinematographers Christopher Doyle and Glenn Kaplan making strong use of the lush Chilean landscapes around southern Chile's Lago Ranco. Similarly, by never letting us know quite what's really going on with Alicia, Silva expertly builds both nail-biting tension and a sense of genuine dread, heightened by some stunningly oppressive sound design work and an atmospheric score by Danni Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.

Worth seeing?
Magic Magic is an impressively directed, superbly acted and genuinely chilling psychological horror that burrows under your skin and will stay with you for days afterwards. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Magic Magic (15)
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Content updated: 16/12/2017 20:42

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