Tuesday, September 28, 2010


The plot of Julia sounds insane and implausible on paper: a mentally ill mother, Elena, enlists the help of her neighbor, Julia (Tilda Swinton), to permanently kidnap her son, Tom, who is "imprisoned" by his wealthy and "evil" grandfather. If Julia helps in the kidnapping, Elena would give Julia a large reward. Julia, who is a completely dysfunctional alcoholic, agrees to help but, on her own, plans to double cross Elena by kidnapping Tom and asking for an even larger ransom. But, as the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, when Julia actually kidnaps Tom, Tom is then kidnapped by Mexican kidnappers when she accidentally drives across the border while escape authority.

Sounds impossible right? I would think so. But somehow Erick Zonca, a French director, made it all work with incredible realism. Julia is one of best thrillers I have seen this year. I literally held my breath for the last 5 minutes. I wish I had seen it earlier. It was on my Netflix queue for quite a long time. However, since I never read any articles or heard any publicity about the film, I never got the motivation to watch it. But last time, I was craving for a thriller and felt I was finally time to give it a try.

It sure did not disappoint. Tilda Swinton's performance is mesmerizing. There's nothing glamorous about her character though; in fact, she was uglified for the role kind of like Penelope Cruz in Don't Move. She is a complete drunk, cannot get her act together, does not even think of herself as an alcoholic, and creates a huge web of lies where she herself gets entangled. She parties all night, sleeps with random men, and looks like a total mess the morning after. Swinton as Julia is raw, surreal, and utterly incredible. I am so surprised that this film and her performance for this character did not garner more attention and accolades in the United States. If she was good in Michael Clayton as Karen Crowder, Tilda as Julia is 50x better than the Karen during the bathroom scene.

In addition to Tilda's performance, Aidan Gould who plays the boy Tom adds a great touch to the film. He is a likable and quirky character with extremely extremely bad luck and just gets caught in the middle of all this mess! He was playing in the river wearing a speedo when Julia kidnaps him. Then he gets taken to Mexico during his sleep while Julia drives like a mad woman. Then he gets kidnapped a second time! And throughout the movie, someone is always pointing a gun at him, and he has the least clue of what is going on. Aidan really needs to be in the next Wes Anderson film. He would be a perfect fit.

At 2 hours and 30 minutes long, Julia can be a bit tiring at points especially in the desert scenes (think--the scene in Babel where the nanny tries to find the children in the desert). But even at 2 hours and 30 minutes, Julia is a truly exciting drama-thriller where the plot and characters are out of this world, and it has its touching and amusing moments of poignancy, sheer panic, and heavy absurdity.

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