For those intrigued by its eerily straightforward marketing campaign – one identifiably benchmarked by Michael Cera in a purportedly career realigning turn – Sebastián Silva’s Magic Magic is, in fact, not entirely focused on an archetypal sociopath out to stalk his helpless prey. For the record, Silva’s first-conceived of two projects to premier at this year’s Sundance Film Festival revolves around a shy, adventurously tepid young lady (Juno Temple) whose cousin (Emily Browning) inadvertently gives her mental collapse a jump-start when she’s supposedly forced to “take an exam” while studying abroad in southern Chile. Now alone with complete strangers and separated from the mainland, the increasingly anxious Alicia must do her best to acclimate herself whilst awaiting her savior’s arrival.
Misdirection not at all affecting Silva’s experimental take on your typical psychological thriller, the film takes pride in withholding important details from us until after they irreparably tarnish a particular situation at the remote central Chilean cottage. At once appearing socially inept in the basest of ways, Temple’s Alicia self-deprecatingly belies her hosts’ intentions as her simply being out of her element causes shit to hit the fan. With the co-inhabitant Brink (Michael Cera) discernibly acting out in an obnoxious enough manner, Alicia’s aversion to him and the others is enough to stir the proverbial pot, what with Silva’s distressing exposition of certain events outlining the titular female’s supposed predicament aptly enough.
As insomnia plays the culprit in relation to Alicia’s explosively erratic behavior, Magic Magic‘s unrelenting view of occurrences from her perspective lay the tension on thick, projecting a somewhat believable dramatic element that sidesteps nearly all horror thriller cliches. Whether the film’s intention is to passively illustrate the perils of mental illness is uncertain, but Silva’s aptitude in consistently deceiving us – making us believe one thing as we inevitably second guess ourselves thanks to ambiguity – is very admirable even if the finished product doesn’t resonate as strongly as one would hope. All in all, it’s superbly well-acted, a relentlessly dark and obscure aura contributing valuably to its intentions, however one shouldn’t be deceived by a shallow interest in cheap thrills as proposed by Magic Magic‘s debut trailer – this film is a literal, psychologically affecting mindtrip that means well but doesn’t fully capitalize on an intriguing approach.