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April 2010

Eloise

cast: Diana Gomez, Ariadna Cabrol, Laura Conejero, and Bernat Saumell

director: Jesus Garay

92 minutes (15) 2009
widescreen ratio 16:9
TLA DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
review by Barbara Davies

Eloïse

A college student is lying in a coma in a Barcelona hospital. How did she get there? While Asia's mother and boyfriend wait anxiously by her bedside to learn if she will survive, flashbacks fill us in. It started when Asia met Elo´se...

Answering an advert on a bulletin board for an artist's model, architecture student Asia is dismayed to find it was placed by fine art student Eloïse. Asia's party-girl friends never miss an opportunity to deride the half French, half Spanish Eloïse as a 'freak', but she is as individualistic, well-travelled, and artistic as they are conventional and narrow. She's also a lesbian.

Overcoming her initial qualms and resolving to do 'something impulsive', Asia takes the job as Eloïse's model. It's the start of a deepening relationship between the chalk-and-cheese pair; one of which Asia's rather-dim boyfriend Nat is unaware and which Asia's suffocating mother (she still tucks her 18-year-old daughter into bed!) is determined to break up. On the first anniversary of Asia and Nat's relationship, while they depart for the ballet, Asia's mother goes to visit Eloïse and sets in motion a tragic chain of events...

Jesus Garay livens up his rather linear 'girl meets girl' plot by cutting (sometimes confusingly) between past and present. It could be just me, but he also seems to add ambiguity to the film's outcome with his opening reference to a 'dream of dying' and a closing shot of the two women heading into the sunset. Bright Barcelona sunlight adds an appropriately spacious, artistic quality to some scenes, and Eloïse's haunting score enhances the languorous lovemaking between the two leads.

But lines like: "I want to do something impulsive, unexpected, without thinking," feel clunky and repetitious - perhaps something got lost in translation from the original Catalan? Much about the plot also feels over-familiar - sheltered straight girl falls for experienced lesbian loner who introduces her to a horizon-broadening world of female sensuality, but society and the odds are against them yadda-yadda-yadda. Its characters' attitudes towards homosexuality also feel a little dated, but as it's a Spanish film that could perhaps be due to cultural differences.

Ariadna Cabrol is mesmerising as the exotic Eloïse, and brings real heat to her scenes, but it's hard to see what attracts her character to Asia. As played by Diana Gomez, Asia is beautiful but bland verging on the blank; so too is Bernat Saumell as Nat, the unfortunate boyfriend with whom Asia seems to have (by accident or design, it's hard to judge) no chemistry whatsoever. Fortunately, Laura Conejero enjoys getting her teeth into the much meatier role of Asia's controlling mother.



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