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

A coming of age drama from director Jesus Garay, following a teenager’s exploration of friendship and love, Eloise proves to be a film that simultaneously conforms and shatters the stereotypes of its genre.

Whilst many are mistaken that the film centres upon the title character of Eloise, the main focus of the picture lies with 18-year-old Asia. The film’s plot details the story of her life which unravels via flashbacks of dark visions interspersed with pleasant memories, as she lies comatose in hospital. Watching her daughter, Asia’s shell-shocked mother demands to know the whereabouts of “her.” As Asia’s boyfriend expresses little knowledge of the mystery woman dismissed as “no-one,” it is clear that she could play a key role in the reason for Asia’s condition.

As time is reversed, we are shown that Asia is an artistic, kind and popular student. She appears to lead a life most ordinary, dividing her time between her friends, studies and controlling mother.

After meeting her future boyfriend, Nathaniel, Asia immediately sets herself apart from her loud and flamboyant friends with her shyness and sensitivity to the prejudice held against fellow student, Eloise. Curious about an advertisement for an art student seeking a model, Asia applies - unbeknownst that Eloise is the artist. Despite the tolerance displayed earlier, Asia expresses reluctance to pose for an openly gay woman but is won over by Eloise’s no nonsense attitude.

As Nathaniel and Asia drift apart, with every art lesson and heart-to-heart she gravitates further towards Eloise. Asia begins confronting her own feelings for Eloise after a weekend together; inadvertently causing Asia’s mother to attempt to literally put her daughter on the straight and narrow by intervening between the star-crossed lovers…

What is surprising about Eloise is the direction Garay takes a film that is a seemingly typical romantic drama by providing a sense of foreboding and darkness contrasting against the happiness of two people falling in love. The overall visual tone of the film is split in to two parts to distinguish flashbacks from scenes of Asia hospitalised, providing us as an audience with a helpful aid in the midst of numerous jolts through time.

Though the ending of the film may come as a surprise to most mainstream audiences, those familiar with films featuring the LGBT community will notice a cliché that has become trite in their on-screen portrayals. Deterring from Hollywood’s perpetual need for a ‘happy ending’ and to solve all character’s problems within a film’s two hour run, Garay let’s the audience choose their own ending depending on the type of person they are - not dissimilar from the glass half empty/half full test.

This can be, depending on an individual’s taste, infuriating or enlightening, as scriptwriter Cristina Moncunill’s natural dialogue combined with the chemistry between Gomez and Cabrol has the viewer heavily invested in the characters. Gomez, especially, has a difficult task of playing a main character experiencing a great amount of conflict that is likeable despite her infidelity. Her portrayal of Asia as someone who welcomes an unexpected love but feels guilt over the consequences is refreshing, with her quiet dignity also tinged with moments of feistiness.

There were moments within the film where the ol’ heart strings were tugged and the feeling that at any moment a violin would appear was a looming prospect. But it is Ariadna Carbrol’s performance that so often saved the day, with Eloise’s ease within her own skin and captivating presence. Cabrol brings credibility to the typical quirky art student that could have been in danger of seeming pretentious. Instead, Eloise, as a character, is charming and gutsy despite the generalisation that all artistic souls wear doc martins and grim reaper robes. Both actresses possess uncanny resemblances to Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson, which was probably intentional to draw comparisons with the infamous Vicky Cristina Barcelona kiss. But the treatment of a same-sex couple within the film is at times outdated, especially as it is set in main city Barcelona and Spanish law has had more progress with gay rights than the UK.

What is surprising is how the film tackles both prejudice and infidelity in a manner that isn’t condescending or preaching to viewers. The film’s soundtrack, although setting the tone off to a good start, quickly became grating with the excessive use of whimsical flute’s song to illustrate the couple’s blossoming romance. Although this does not prevent one from enjoying the film, at times it does sound like it belongs to a made-for-TV movie.

It’s clear that in different hands, Eloise could have been a cure for insomniacs and in danger of becoming a, dare I say it, ‘chick flick’. But it is the combination of cast and director which proves gold in terms of deviating from the usual romance genre yet managing to still tick all of its boxes. A coming of age and romantic drama with an air of independence. SRI

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