REVIEW: DVD Release: Eloise

Film: Eloise
Release date: 5th April 2010
Certificate: 15
Running time: 92 mins
Director: Jesus Garay
Starring: Leo Casamitjana, Felipe Arago, Diana Gomez, Laura Conejero
Genre: Drama/Romance
Studio: TLA
Format: DVD
Country: Spain

When a movie is entitled only by a first name, like Frida or Amelie, the audience can confidently assume the filmmakers are introducing the main protagonist to the audience as someone special or unique, whose life is going to be observed from an intimate viewpoint.

The focal character here, however, is not Eloise. Before we learn who this person is, the first scene gives straightimmediately sets atheway the tragic tone of the movie. It opens with a long dark corridor that a little girl is walking whilst holding the hand of her mother; simultaneously, as the sound of the heels solemnly mimickmimics heartbeats, the voice of a young woman haunts the gloomy atmosphere - with a premonitory dialogue, the young woman tells Eloise that she dreamt she was dying.

The second scene tracks the steps of a mother who rushes to the hospital, where her daughter – called Asia (Diana Gomez) – lies in comatose, for reasons (temporarily) unknown to the audience. As these two scenes are intertwined, we get to discover that the two mothers are the same person, and thus, we can confidently infer that the little girl is as well the unconscious body in the hospital bed, but grown as a teenager. From this moment on, the story rewindsards the succession of events that will lead eventually to the announced tragedy.

Asia is a pretty young lady who studies architecture; she has got two girl friends, and goes out with a nice lad. She lives in a comfortable flat with her single mother.; Tthe latter is a control freak that decides for instance, how long Asia shall study at home, and what she should wear on the first anniversary of her relationship with her boyfriend - in other words, the mother shapes her daughter in the way she judges it successful. One day, in the student food quarter, while her friends slander a girl sitting behind them, Asia witnesses with bewilderment the unwavering attitude of this girl – whom we notably learn that she is a lesbian, according to her friends.

Later on, Asia applies in person to an ad requiring a model for an art student’s drawings; when she finds out that the student is Eloise (Ariadna Cabrol), her friends’ fool, her cravedesire for excitement and new experiences prevents her from stepping away from this enigmatic character…

Eloise captures the emotional growth of a teenager: the bearings of Asia’s existence – rigidly framed and quite narrow – are suddenly shaken by the arrival of Eloise in her environment, who contributes to unlock the maternal golden birdcage. In this respect, we can point out the reference to Hermann Hesse’s Demian – the book that Eloise reads in the food quarter, and that also pushes Asia to model for her – and draw a parallel between Demian/Sinclair and Eloise/Asia, as for a sort of mentor/disciple relationship that binds both ‘couples’. However, the discovery of a wider horizon for the apprentice is not easy: Asia struggles to spread her wings and fly independently – because she does not know where to fly to. In this framework, the confusion of feelings is efficiently shown on the screen by the succession of short-length past and present events, smartly ordered to guide the audience to a gradual understanding of the facts.

It is also interesting to highlight that some pervading motives emphasise, and almost build the sentimental tension that Asia is going through - like the excitation from the sound of a charcoal pencil, or the anxious silence of corridors, for instance. Thus, due to this functioning construction, love as a feeling is depicted with reasonable decency and shyness that contain together a flood of energy (positive or negative, depending on the situation), while love as a physical act looks almost flat, shallow and forgettable - Asia has a massive hole to fill with love, so the first rules then over the second one in this context , giving extra charm to the romance. Furthermore, Diana Gomez performs Asia with lsweetness, ovability , making an angel of her.

Despite the pleasant, light sensuality emanating from these sweet scenes, Eloise still lacks in emotional intensity – and actually, it is a reference to both the movie and the character: the protective detachment of Eloise seems so markedly deeply seated that nothing could reach her, and therefore her attempts of tenderness do not appear to be as realistic as Asia’s. Yet, the balance of emotions is respectable, as it is neither overdramatic nor excessive. Firstly, in the structure of the tragedy, despite the issues raised, such as familial influence and impact, sexual orientation and death, there is no heavy burden to carry all along the movie. Then, even though Asia and Eloise play a high school version of Rachel and Luce in Imagine Me & You, the way towards cheesy romance is fortunately avoided with the brutal interruption by of tragedy.

If you have high expectations on the representation of homosexuality and on the actual illustration of its complexity in films, go for Happy Together or Les Filles du Botaniste (The Chinese Botanist’s Daughters) instead. Nevertheless, this is enjoyable light entertainment. MCR

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