Writer-director Sebastian Silva has given audiences something quite strange. A psychological thriller that never really thrills, and often borders on outright comedy. If that comedy was intentional then that wouldn’t be a problem, but I can’t help suspecting that most of this movie was supposed to be taken seriously.
Juno Temple plays Alicia, the young and rather shy cousin on Sarah (Emily Browning). She joins Sarah and some friends (including a dark-haired Michael Cera) as they head off to an island off the coast of Chile. Unfortunately, Sarah has to leave the group for a day or so, which leaves Alicia alone with Brink (Cera), Barbara (Catalina Sandino) and Agustin (Agustin Silva), and also alone with her own problems and paranoia. Things soon start to get strained before taking a turn for the worse.
There are a lot of aspects of this movie that feel familiar enough to point things in the right direction. Alicia is a young girl, made to feel extra vulnerable by the fact that she’s in a land where she doesn’t even know the language. The island setting, the slightly unsettling behaviour of the characters, the encounters with alarming animals, all of these things tick the boxes on the standard thriller checklist. Silva adds another layer with some hypnotism-related shenanigans before adding more to the mix in the third act, a folding of parallel story points leading to the movie title, in my opinion.
The acting is a real mixed bag. Temple is fantastic in the central, but the attempt to do something different with Cera really falls flat. In fact, his moments in the film often led to the laughs from the audience around me that I didn’t think were required. Emily Browning does a decent job, despite having a bit less screentime, and Cataline Sandino Moreno and Agustin Silva are both fine in their roles.
Much like its main character, Silva seems to wander around in a nice enough environment, unsure of the language and what all of the local customs and traditions mean. He can mimic certain things, and there are one or two decent moments here and there, but he can’t put anything together on his own to form a sensible sentence with any actual meaning. Then there’s the ending, guaranteed to leave viewers frustrated and wondering why they just gave over an hour and a half to a film that, frankly, didn’t treat them very well.
Although it’s not without its good points, I cannot bring myself to recommend Magic Magic to anyone.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: SEBASTIAN SILVA
STARS: JUNO TEMPLE, MICHAEL CERA, EMILY BROWNING, CATALINA SANDINO MORENO, AGUSTIN SILVA
RUNTIME: 97 MINS APPROX