Emilia Perez


Reviewed by: Richard Mowe

Emilia Perez
"Audiard has assembled a remarkable team of actors" | Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

It sounds on the surface like one of the most unlikely of premises for a film by a French auteur like Jacques Audiard - a Spanish language musical themed around Mexican drug cartels and featuring a dealer who wants to escape the whole scene because he is finding his true self as a woman.

Yet he pulls it off with a frenetic energy that bludgeons the viewer into submission, not least because of the high voltage score and dazzling technical trickery (it was all shot in a studio). Pedro Almodovar must be devastated he did not stumble across the story first because it would have been a perfect fit.

Audiard has assembled a remarkable team of actors, not least Karla Sofia Gascón (as Manitas/Emilia) who uses personal experience in the creation of the character. Zoe Saldana is the lawyer who helps Manitas transition and Selena Gomez plays his wife and the mother of their two sons.

Manitas manages to convince his wife to take cover with his children in Switzerland while he organises his own “disappearance” and reappearance as Emilia Perèz.

The film sets out to explore gender stereotypes especially there in the context of a switch from a character with uber-masculine traits to a completely different persona.

The idea came from a book by editor from Le Monde newspaper Boris Razon in which Manitas tries to become his first love who had been murdered some years before. Audiard stresses the film is a very free adaptation from the printed word using it as a springboard to deliver into questions of identity with myriad subplots along the way.

The score by French singer Camille and her partner Clément Ducoli is succinctly integrated into the narrative rather than in the way of conventional musical, which has the effect seamlessly propelling the plot.

Audiard has always proved he is adept at exploring different closed world such as the prison system in A Prophet and the displaced in Dheepan (a Palme d’Or winner in 2015) so perhaps, finally, it is no surprise to find him excelling on a another tack in a different genre.

Reviewed on: 20 May 2024
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Emilia Perez packshot
A lawyer gets an offer to help a cartel boss start a new life.

Director: Jacques Audiard

Writer: Jacques Audiard

Starring: Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez, Edgar Ramírez, Karla Sofía Gascón, Adriana Paz, James Gerard, Shiraz Tzarfati, Agathe Bokja, Marie-Elisabeth Robert, Stéphane Ly-Cuong, Eric Geynes, Anabel Lopez, Eduardo Aladro, Line Phé, Cyrus Khodaveisi

Year: 2024

Runtime: 132 minutes

Country: US, Mexico


Cannes 2024

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