By Madeleine Wall
Winner of this year’s Caméra d’Or at Cannes, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s Murina is a competent but slight combo of thriller and coming-of-age film basking in the sun of the Adriatic sea. Armed with a speargun and clad in a white bathing suit, 16-year-old Julija (Gracija Filipovic) cuts a striking figure in the tourist-heavy waters of the Croatian coastline. Living in isolation with her parents, Ante (The Load’s Leon Lucev) and Nela (Danica Curcic), Julija knows these waters well, hunting as adeptly as she avoids the brutality of her father. While their home looks like a paradise (especially in the beautiful cinematography by Hélène Louvart), this place only feels like it if you’re a tourist.
Everything has its breaking point, and things take a turn with the arrival of the wealthy Javier (Cliff Curtis), an old friend of Julija’s father. Ante hopes to sell his island to the millionaire, while sparks fly between this guest and Nela. Julija watches it all from a distance, but she too is drawn in by Javier’s charm, and comes to see him as her own way out of her suffocating situation. Julija must ultimately navigate between her own hopes and the fantasies of her parents, weighed down by the baggage of adulthood. As the family’s fragile bonds begin to fracture, Julija’s desire for an escape route comes into conflict with her realization that she must take her freedom into her own hands.
Despite the scenic setting, Kusijanović knows that the real attraction is her cast, and the strength of the film comes from her four stars playing off another. There’s clearly some skill here, and one hopes the director’s next project involves a meatier catch.