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With: Mercedes Moran, Carlos Belloso, Maria Alche, Mia Maestro
Written by: Lucrecia Martel
Directed by: Lucrecia Martel
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content and brief nudity
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 106
Date: 05/06/2004

The Holy Girl (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lucrecia Martel's The Holy Girl sets up a number of situations that can be viewed as dramatic conflicts; the film almost seems to move forward in a linear fashion, bounding inevitably toward a foregone conclusion. But in fact, like Martel's previous film, the excellent La Cienaga, it's more about time and place and mood and emotion than any kind of story. A teenage girl, Amalia (Maria Alché), with haunting eyes of immeasurable depth, lives with her mother (Mercedes Moran) in a vaguely run-down hotel; the house shampoo causes their hair to dry out and turn wiry. During a medical convention, a doctor (Carlos Belloso) meets Helena in a crowd and rubs up against her. She finds the encounter endlessly fascinating, and it ignites a conflict within her. Her intense religious training forbids her from sex, but the pleasure (and power) she feels comes close to godliness. Martel also sets up more fundamental conflicts, such as Helena flirting with the doctor, or the doctor potentially getting into trouble for his flirting, but the film's power comes from Amalia, and from Martel's vivid atmosphere. Pleasure is mingled seamlessly with dread as the hotel's swimming pools seem to breed disease and insects buzz all around. Martel's touch is so magically unobtrusive and so keenly observant that it's hard to notice exactly what she's doing except when viewing the big picture.

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