Canadian Film Fest 2016: JULIA JULEP (2014) – Short Film Review
Whimsical and flighty stories are difficult to pull off in general. Even more difficult to do in a format that has a very abbreviated run time. So it’s surprising to see a short effectively tell a story that is very abstract in nature, while still being incredibly well told.
Here is my Spoiler-free Movie Review of ‘Julia Julep’ opening at the Canadian Film Fest 2016.
The Canadian Film Fest is a wholly Canadian film festival (obviously) that features home grown Canadian films in order to elevate and celebrate excellence in films made outside the Hollywood norm. Held in the Downtown Toronto area, this year’s Festival takes place from March 30th to April 2nd. More information and (more importantly) tickets for the Festival can be found on their website.
Now short films aren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Coverage of the short films from the Canadian Film Fest 2016, may have changed my mind on that. But stories that are open to interpretation are even more foreign to my wheelhouse than other genres. ‘Julia Julep’ however, is a story told in a style that I can appreciate, and dare I say, even be moved by.
Following a tragic loss, a young girl named Julia (Naeva Hernandez-Souki) and her uncle Jacky (Emmanual Schwartz) take a departure from their grief, as they approach a landmark from the uncle’s childhood. While indulging in a bit of nostalgia, the Julia wanders away, embarking on her own journey, seeking to understand why her mother is no longer with her, while Jacky is left to confront his own loss.
This short film is very reminscent of 1960’s dialogue-less films of endearment, where more is experienced by the audience through the characters’ misery and brief moments of joy, than any exposition or spoken words. ‘Julia Julep’ could easily be seen as a film that could be the product of Wes Anderson remaking ‘Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory’. The bright and painting-like visuals, along with the costume designs make it even more apparent.
Director Alana Cymerman decides to tell the story outdoors, but the set design has a very localized and almost claustraphobic feel to it, which adds to the story when taking into consideration how Jacky must feel when his young niece goes missing. This is further enhanced by Julia’s own story, where some visual effects play a hand, and they seem to be done effortlessly. Cinematographer Benoit Beaulieu creates a visually stand-out world, amidst this story focused on the characters, but still is able to create some exotic venues that add to the mystical elements of the story and supplements the characters’ interactions with them.
Even though Hernandez-Souki is a little rough around the edges, she’s great at invoking emotions required of a girl trying to understand loss. Schwartz as the hapless uncle trying to deal with a tough situation is wonderful, in a performance that would cause stomach churning reaction in every parent watching. There is also a brief but notable appearance by Anna Hopkins, whom geek audiences will recognize from her role as Samantha Clayton on The CW’s ‘Arrow’ & ‘The Flash’.
While the ‘Julia Julep’ isn’t entirely comprehensive, it’s not meant to be. It’s more a spiritual look at how a young girl comes to optimistically comprehend the new terms of her life, becoming at peace through an experience that can never be fully explained, nor does it need to be.
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