Nina Santa

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Movie Review by Jonathan Harvey

Starring: Mercedes Moran, Carlos Belloso, Alejandro Urdapilleta, Maria Alche

Director: Lucrecia Martel

Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel, LA NInA SANTA (THE HOLY GIRL) is a charming Argentinean / Spanish / Italian film about the relationships between the main characters, which are portrayed very delicately and explores the story of the triangle that develops between the three of them.

It stars Mercedes Moran as world-weary mum Helena, living in the dilapidated family hotel where she’s bringing up her daughter Amalia (played with great sophistication by young talent Maria Alche). When the mysterious Dr Jano (Carlos Belloso) comes to stay at the hotel for a medical conference, Helena becomes interested in him even though she knows he’s married with children.

The story takes a dramatic turn though, when in a crowd of people watching a street performer Jano presses himself sexually against Amalia. The young girl then spies on the doctor for days, telling her young friend Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg) that she has a mission to save the man from sin. With their knowledge, the doctor’s world lies in the hands of a pair of adolescent girls.

It’s this fact that makes the story so compelling. Director Martel does a wonderful job in depicting the huge gap between the innocence and lack of consequences of a child’s life and the trials and tribulations of adulthood, together with the tension and drama that can result when the two worlds collide.

Strong performances from the cast are backed up by great subtle visuals, and the final shot of the two girls swimming together, just as the full effects of Jano’s actions are about to come crashing down, is tantalising. Martel has crafted a fine, polished tale, and comes highly recommended.

5 out of 6 stars