Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tilda Swinton, Saul Rubinek, Kate del Castillo, Aidan Gould, Jude Ciccolella, Bruno Bichir, Horacio Garcia Rojas, Mauricio Moreno, Gaston Peterson, Kevin Kilner, John Bellucci, Ezra Buzzington, Roger Cudney, Eugene Byrd, Sandro Kopp
Written by: Roger Bohbot, Michael Collins, Aude Py, Erick Zonca
Directed by: Erick Zonca
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, some violent content and brief nudity
Language: English, and Spanish with English subtitles
Running Time: 144
Date: 02/09/2008

Julia (2008)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Kid Lock

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

French director Erick Zonca (The Dreamlife of Angels) returns after a long absence with this harrowing American film. It takes a cue from John Cassavetes' Gloria (1980), starting with a hard-living, older woman.

This time, she's an alcoholic played by Tilda Swinton. After a series of incidents and temptations, Julia winds up kidnapping a boy, Tom (Aidan Gould), with the hope of reuniting him with his mother and collecting a large fee. But instead, Julia winds up on the run to Mexico, where the boy is kidnapped again.

Zonca turns in a very long (144 minutes), very tough movie that switches moods and logic almost haphazardly (perhaps like a drunk?). Despite all this, it's a gripping, highly effective picture. The thanks mostly goes to Ms. Swinton, who gives a truly astonishing performance. She puts most of the actual 2009 Oscar nominees to shame.

We can start by celebrating her surface achievements like seeming to understand the logic of being drunk and being an alcoholic, to the achievement of hiding her British accent behind a very authentic, attitude-ridden American accent, but it goes much, much deeper than that. Over the course of the film, we see Julia's long-buried instincts awakened. She's not redeemed as much as she simply becomes more human.

Julia was selected by film critic Roger Ebert, who received the Mel Novikov award at this year's San Francisco International Film Festival. The extraordinary evening included tributes by directors Terry Zwigoff, Errol Morris, Jason Reitman and Philip Kaufman.

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