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ENT physicians gather at a provincial hotel in Salta. The hotel owner, Helena, is subdued, brittle, avoiding the calls of her ex-husband's pregnant wife. Family dysfunction seems everywhere. Helena's daughter, Amalia, about 14, discusses vocations in a Catholic girls group. Their teen imaginations conflate the erotic, the religious, and the lurid. Amalia notices Dr. Jano, and he notices her. She decides to make him her vocation, she follows him, he rubs against her in a public crowd, he's appalled at his actions. Meanwhile, Helena believes Jano is attracted to her even though he's married. Longing, guilt, scandal, and teen sensuality are set to collide.Written by
To enjoy "The Holy Girl," you have to watch it in a certain way. Watching for plot will leave you unsatisfied; I'd recommend watching for character instead. Lucrecia Martel attempts to use her impressive technique to nail down the psychology of her characters; this works especially well for her protagonist, Amalia. While freewheeling through the bush near the reputed site of a post-car crash miracle, a fade to silence fills the air with Amalia's desire for transcendence. (Martel's sound is expressive throughout, particularly a theremin solo as weirdly kinky as the scene it illustrates.)
The most interesting relationship is between Amalia and Jose. Shallow but not empty, they're attractive not because of their bone structure but because of their vitality - it shines through even when they're bored, which is most of the time. Their bond isn't as intense as Kate Winslet's and Melanie Lynskey's in "Heavenly Creatures," but it's the same sort of friendship (albeit not consummated), only things spin out of control in a less bloodstained way. Amalia and a mildly perverted doctor also have some amusing scenes, while the character of Amalia's mother fails to add any more than the predictable ironies.
The movie ends where it ends to avoid humiliating the characters any more than is strictly necessary; I like these endings where something is left to the viewers' imaginations, though obviously not everyone would agree. Some of Martel's social themes, like the way the middle class appropriates religion to serve itself, are lost along the way. "The Holy Girl" isn't as lovably wild as "Y tu mamá también," but on the topic of sexual hypocrisy, it's just as smart, and maybe funnier.
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