Film ratings

Croatian teenager struggles in coming-of-age drama

The last few weeks in the United States have echoed a stream of international films that has grown over the past two years – stories of young women trying to find a place for themselves in environments that allow them little or no freedom. agency in their own lives. . The movies have nothing to do with Roe v. Wade, but from the recent Cannes period drama “Corsage” (a royal woman chafing under physical and societal restraints) to the unsettling Costa Rican film “Clara Sola” (which puts a mystical spin on the awakening of female power ), the films can feel timely to viewers who see their own boundaries shrinking.

‘Murina’, by Croatian director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, which won the Camera d’Or for Best First Film at Cannes in 2021 and will be released in US theaters in July, is a father-daughter conflict set in a high-end, shiny frame. In recent years, young women directors from the Balkan states have made a series of impressive films haunted by the wars that devastated this region in the 1990s – among them “The Marriage” by Blerta Zeqiri, “Zana” by Antoneta Kastrati and “Quo Vadis, Aida? – but Kusijanovi remains aloof from the repercussions of these conflicts; she is more concerned about the wars within the family.

Julija (Gracija Filipovic) is a teenager who lives on an idyllic coast where her father (Leon Lucev) owns land he hopes to sell to Javier (Cliff Curtis), a wealthy former employer and sometimes friend. If Javier buys the land, it will be the jackpot for the family to move to Zagreb – but any potential stumble could spell disaster. Dominating and under enormous stress as the potential sale approaches, her father barks commands at Julija and her mother, Nela (Danica Curcic); mom accompanies and finds excuses for her behavior.

“He needs it,” Nela said. “If he gets this deal, he will be calmer.”

“If he receives money, he will be worsesays Julija, who wears a perpetual look of sullen annoyance that seems entirely justified every time her father opens his mouth.

In this setting, urban Javier appears to Julija to be everything his father is not: open-minded, encouraging his desires to leave his constricted life, supportive rather than dismissive. It’s not that simple, of course, and each character in turn is the culprit in this turn-based warfare that can become exhausting and repetitive.

But “Murina” also gives Filipovic room to shine as Julija, and he uses the blue ocean and sunny shores to paint a vivid picture of a troubled paradise, with much help from the dreamy compositions of the director of photography Hélène Louvart.

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The film also gives its heroine a pair of dramatic signposts on her travels – the first shot from beneath the ocean’s surface looking skyward, the last shot from far above looking at the surface. Does the sea offer Julija an escape, or just a nice distraction before she inevitably returns to a darker life on land? Kusijanovic isn’t interested in helping her out as this coming-of-age story turns into another cinematic journey of a young woman through an inhospitable world.

“Murina” opens in New York on July 8 and in Los Angeles on July 14 from Kino Lorber.

This review was adapted from an article that aired on “Murina” during the film’s Cannes premiere in July 2021.