Murina: Review. By Alif Majeed.
Coming of age movies set in an idyllic location during a vacation almost always have a sense of doom. Even a comedy can be portrayed with a touch of sadness, and things may not always work out in the end. Murina does not tinker much with that formula but has enough in it to work as an effective drama.
At least in its initial portions, the movie feels formulaic because of the portrayal of the protagonist Julija. She is a precarious teenager, who is shaken by the arrival of Javier, a friend of her overbearing and bullheaded father. She often fantasizes about replacing her dad with this man, even trying to get him together with her long-suffering mother, thinking it is the right thing to do with disastrous results.
In her mind, Javier is everything his father is not. Sensitive, suave, with a dash of adventure, and in complete control of himself. In Julija’s mind, Javier is the perfect addition to their family when you take out her father. An in-form Cliff Curtis plays Javier, who sympathizes with Julija and her mom and often even ambiguously encourages her fantasies. It is the complete opposite of the character that put him on the cinematic map. When he played Uncle Bully in Once were Warriors, where when he was put in a similar position because of the hospitality of the patriarch, cruelly ended up raping the daughter and triggered the violent climax of that movie. Here, he goes the other direction, playing the understanding friend who, despite experiencing the cruel nature of his friend, more or less is a mute spectator because it is not his family to protect.
Cruelty and abuse of power are major themes of the movie. Leon Lucev is terrifying as the family patriarch who holds down his family by his brutal force of will. It manifests in different ways, from his obvious treatment of his family to subtle ones. In a scene where Javier proclaims proudly that he forgives Leon for a past digression, the subtle way in which he takes out his anger on his daughter at his friend’s large-heartedness is way more shocking than acting out his anger on his family.
Your heart also goes out to Danica Curcic as Nela, his long-suffering wife who has resigned to her fate but still stays dignified while doing it. A fact that Julija holds against her for being cowardly than talking charge.
That appealed to me about Julija. Despite never leaving the island like almost never, she had to grow up pretty fast. Even though she barely speaks, she has been through a lot. She also reminded me of Cecile from Bonjour Tristesse in her childishness. Sometimes, though a person might seem to be wiser beyond her age, you take it for granted that she is still a child who is bound to make childish decisions. That is sometimes that Gracija Filipović brings out brilliantly in Murina.
It might not be the most memorable coming-of-age drama you have come across, but it is a stark reminder of what a family has to endure in the face of fragile male egos.
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