Review: Murina

Written and directed by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, co-written by Frank Graziano, a teenage girl decides to replace her controlling father with his wealthy foreign friend during a weekend trip to the Adriatic Sea. Starring: Gracija Filipović, Leon Lučev, Danica Curcic and Cliff Curtis.

One of the interesting things about this film is creating a young female character whose identity is not at all influenced by social media, popular culture or the latest fad. Julija (Filipović) is much more akin to a character that might have been found in 70s or 80s cinema, living a sheltered life with her parents, helping to run the family business and forever looking for her way out. It’s a great change of pace, particularly as it allows Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic to give a more accurate representation of youth. It frames Julija’s childish nature along with her path to adulthood, it demonstrates her inexperience and how that has impacted her personality, in comparison to other similarly aged young women. Although, there could perhaps have been a slightly bigger focus on her actual interests and if she has any sort of life outside of her family, to round out her character fully.

The story as a whole hits familiar points, centred by Julija’s relationship with her arrogant father, still living the old-school life of being overtly controlling and aggressive. In that sense, it doesn’t have a lot to add, and while the introduction of Javier (Curtis) brings a solid tension, it otherwise feels somewhat lacklustre. It travels a lot of the same road repeatedly and it doesn’t feel like it has a definitive goal to its journey. It also feels like not enough is done about her father’s abusive behaviour and uncontrollable temper, there’s little acknowledgement that it’s intensely unhealthy. Even to the point that her mother is often blaming Julija for provoking him, although it is another interesting example of poor parenting.

Visually, there’s a wealth of stunning cinematography and direction to be found. The location is entirely enviable, the natural light and colour is superb, its water shots are of the quality that you could happily watch them for much longer. The setting and use of the water have a lot to add, feeding into a sense of isolation with a touch of danger. It has a humble quality to its story but the aesthetic expands that into something more tense and weighty. It gives the possibility of something more drastic which adds suspense but ultimately, there isn’t anything particularly out of the ordinary, which is a shame, other than one extended shot of a strangely friendly eel.

It’s a solid ensemble at work here, a strong family connection ready to be broken by an outsider with inside knowledge. Gracija Filipović brings some quintessential qualities to Julija, wanting what she can’t have, finding small ways to rebel, refusing to follow the path set out for her. It’s a great performance but at the same time doesn’t quite feel like it’s taking charge, whether or not the character could stand without the rest of the group is uncertain. Leon Lučev brings all the necessary resentment, frustration and toxic masculinity that you’d expect. Danica Curcic presents a slightly beaten down quality to her character, giving into the flow of her life rather than trying to control it, there are some hints to a deeper exploration of where that comes from but they’re ultimately loose threads. Cliff Curtis brings his usual charm, presenting the greener grass and the temptation of the wider world and a less tumultuous, more lavish life.

Murina is a classic story of teen rebellion, escaping modern trappings for an 80s style drama that would comfortably fit among Rohmer’s catalogue. It has a strong tension and excellent cinematography and direction but doesn’t feel as though its story has a clear goal or destination. It finds itself becoming a touch repetitive and Julija’s character, while a nice change of pace, isn’t filled out enough to build a truly strong, confident heart to the story.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

UK premiere at the closing gala of Glasgow Film Festival on 13 March & in cinemas 8 April

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