Cinema Review: My Name Is Emily | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 26th, 2020  

My Name Is Emily

Studio: Newgrange
Directed by Simon Fitzmaurice

Jul 09, 2015 Web Exclusive
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My Name Is Emily is the debut feature from Irish filmmaker Simon Fitzmaurice, and stars Evanna Lynch (the Harry Potter films) as a young girl who runs away from her foster parents to break her father (Michael Smiley, Kill List, Spaced) out of a mental institution. She enlists the aid of Arden (George Webster, City of Dreamers) and the two of them take off on a road trip across Ireland.

Most of the set pieces and plot points that make up My Name Is Emily are familiar, indie film clichés, from the quirky girl nobody understands, to the road trip in a bright yellow car. Yet Fitzmaurice makes the most of them, turning an otherwise run of the mill coming of age drama into an impressively intimate portrait of a young girl in the throes of a philosophical crisis. The themes are heavy, but moments of jarring humor crop up here or there, lightening the burden. The expository first act drags a little, dwelling on symbolic imagery before moving on to the journey that takes up the bulk of the film. But in the end, understanding Emily’s mental state is a necessary use of the runtime.

The film employs elemental motifs to explore the nature of Emily’s struggle and her father’s influence on her worldview. Emily’s existential nature is constantly engulfed by water, and the first act feels drowned in underwater imagery. Her father’s writing centers on swimming, so water is an abstraction for her relationship with him, until the third act when it shifts to the unfamiliar fire. Yet to Arden, Emily is electric, as he describes her with flashbacks to a dancer he saw as a child. Fortunately, the film never dives straightway into the cerebral, as Arden’s naïve humanity balances the cast from floating too high into the clouds.

My Name Is Emily is too arthouse for a straightforward drama, yet too narratively driven for the avant-garde. What’s left is actually just a beautiful film full of stunning imagery and even more poignant poetry, as the voice over monologues project Emily’s thoughts. Again, a trick that usually screams from tired overuse, but plays authentically in this film. Even though nothing in My Name Is Emily is truly groundbreaking, the film is really a rich, emotional story that gives its characters plenty of room to grow while questioning the very nature of reality. 

[This review was based on a screening at the Galway Film Fleadh. For more information about My Name Is Emily (including theatrical release dates), stay tuned to the film's website.

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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