Argentine Genius: Our Review of ‘The Holy Girl’

Posted in Movies, Retrospective, Theatrical by - February 23, 2018
Argentine Genius: Our Review of ‘The Holy Girl’

Life surrounds young Amalia (Maria Alche) with music. That’s mostly through her time learning hymns as a Catholic school student. Between there and home she, her friends, and others would watch a busker perform with a theremin. It is in one of those performances where something shocking and unthinkable happens to her.

The Holy Girl is a movie about a young woman’s first sexual encounter. We pray that most of those experiences are positive ones. The film shows girls her age anticipating such events. We can see this in the way Amalia and her classmates speculate on their female teacher’s affairs.

There’s a sense of shame in the talk about Amalia’s teacher. This negative air towards sex is more applicable to her own experience which is, of course, not her fault. A man pushes himself behind her during one of the busker’s performances. Her big eyes get wider, as she is processing what is happening to her.

Life has some surprises in store for Amalia. As both she and we find out, the man looks as creepy as his actions. His name is Dr. Jano (Carlos Belloso), who’s in town for a convention. The venue happens to be the hotel that her mother Helena (Mercedes Moran) runs and lives in.

Amalia decides to get closer to her predator, an astonishing decision because of what might have inspired it. Most of her classes in her Catholic school concentrate on vocation. It’s an idea that she and not a lot of her classmates understand. She misinterprets Dr. Jano’s act not as a violation, but as a beginning.

This film has a certain reputation. I was dreading the act of seeing this film, expecting some brainwashed girl being a victim of institutional violence. It’s not as graphic as that, thankfully. Martel also gets so much right that a man might get wrong. However, there’s a risk that she’s pushing those boundaries just because.

Alche takes advantage of an innocent face, creating aspects of a character susceptible to inadvertently bad influence. However, she can only do her best in a movie that toes the line between ambiguity and being obtuse. Amalia wants to finish what Dr. Jano started because she wants to save his soul. Or worse, maybe she wants to serve him.

Both Amalia and Dr. Jano try to contain the situation, which we know is impossible. The film hints at a bigger show which, depending on whether or not it happens, might dissatisfy some audiences. Regardless of how it plays out, Martel shows us that the small moments between people are big enough.

The Holy Girl screens as a part of Argentine Genius: The Films of Lucrecia Martel at 5:30 PM on Sat Feb 24th at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

  • Release Date: 2005
This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
Comments are closed.
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-61364310-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');