Winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s debut is a tense coming-of-age drama.
To a passing tourist, the Adriatic cove where Julija (Gracija Filipovic) lives with her family will likely appear to be nothing less than an aquatic Eden. But the emotional waters are rarely calm here. The fault lies with the Julija’s father Ante (Leon Lucev), a domineering, physically imposing man who exerts his will on his daughter and Nela (Danica Curcic), his wife and the teenage girl’s mother. He has scant regard for the women in his family and believes he knows what’s best for them. But Julija is determined to forge her own path in life and seems determined to challenge her father at every given moment. The situation becomes more complex with the arrival of Javier (Cliff Curtis), an old friend of Ante’s, who has a history with Nela and to who Julija is inexorably drawn.
Kusijanović’s has all the makings of a sunshine noir classic. Every moment simmers with tension, creating an atmosphere that contrasts markedly with the characters’ surroundings. Cinematographer Hélène Louvart wisely adds depth to the coastal idyll, drawing out shadows where there initially appear to be none, adding to the film’s atmosphere. And at the drama’s heart is Gracija Filipovic’s impressive portrayal, giving Julija enough spark to make her a credible thorn in her irascible father’s side.