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My Name Is Emily

By Spactator, 2017-03-21

The best thing about the 16-year old Emily is that she’s appealingly played by the winsome Evanna Lynch (who portrayed Luna Lovegood in some of the Harry Potter pictures.) Lynch has grown into a young woman who looks a bit like Saoirse Ronan and she brings a gritty conviction to the antisocial tendencies that Emily cultivates after her beloved teacher-philosopher father Robert (Michael Smiley) loses his grip on sanity and enters a rural mental hospital. Now with foster parents, Emily immediately alienates a new schoolteacher with her unique approach to literary criticism, disclosing to her classmates that all that talk in Wordsworth about “splendor in the grass” is about sublimated sexual transgression and guilt. When she refuses to break down a poem by Wordsworth into its component parts – “When you cut something up, you kill it” – she quickly gets the attention of the tall, dark and handsome Arden (George Webster). He is smitten but Emily is not.

However, when she doesn't receive the customary birthday card from her eccentric father, a deeply-concerned Emily is forced to solicit her only potential friend on a mission to drive to the institution, confront the father, and maybe even liberate him from the hospital. She calls on Arden at home and, off they go, hiking, hitch-hiking and – thanks to Arden’s kindly Granny and her canary yellow 1970s Renault - eventually by car. Predictable complications ensue, with the two teens becoming emotionally involved along the way. And when they do finally arrive at their destination, what they find proves surprising.

I’m a fan of coming-of-age road movies and also a fan of the rural Irish countryside. I have unqualified enthusiasm for the way writer-director Simon Fitzmaurice and his cinematographer Seamus Deasy shot the various Irish locations, and how they place the characters therein.. The sense of place is so palpable you can almost feel the raw wind going through the characters’ hair in the seaside-set scenes. The effect is often beautifully picturesque and represents the movie’s most seductive achievement. But I was less enthused with the narrative elements. Overly stuffed with pseudo-poetic narration and flashbacks, the film also suffers from a plethora of painful aphorisms on the order of “If you hide from death, you hide from life.” and Robert's hodgepodge hippie philosophy (e.g., asserting that “fact is just opinion” is insidious in our fake-news era). 

Thankfully, the deeply personal My Name Is Emily gets lighter as it goes along, releasing tension and pretension for a pleasant, routine ride.

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