Amulet (2020)

Amulet
Director: Romola Garai
Writer: Romola Garai
Cast: Carla Juri, Alec Secareanu, Imelda Staunton, Anah Ruddin, Angeliki Papoulia
Part of: SLASH Filmfestival
Seen on: 21.9.2020
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Content Note: rape, (trans-)misogyny

Plot:
Tomas (Alex Secareanu) used to be a soldier, but he fled the war and his country and ended up in London where he barely scrapes by, working illegally and living on the streets. After a particular bout of bad luck, Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton) finds him and she is determined to find a new life for him. She suggests that he should move in with Magda (Carla Juri) and her ailing mother (Anah Ruddin). Their house is falling apart around them and Magda is overwhelmed with the care of her mother, so Sister Claire finds the situation to the advantage of everyone involved. And Tomas does settle into the new life, especially since he takes to Magda. A lot. But he also starts to suspect that there is more to the story and her mother.

Amulet starts promising, but the more it revealed, the less it made sense to me. And even more than that: the less I liked it.

The film poster showing a nun, her habit turning into batlike wings.

[SPOILERS]

I’m pretty sure that Amulet is intended as feminist – there is the figurine, the titular amulet, of a goddess, there is the reveal that it is all about punishing rapists and their evil. But unfortunately that feminist message didn’t really come together for me. On the one hand, punishing men by turning them into mothers (mothers of monsters) is decidedly transmisogynistic and generally misogynistic as well and that doesn’t really jive with feminism.

On the other hand, the punishment for Tomas felt to me more like a punishment for Magda than him. She’s the one who is constantly burdened with taking care of these assholes – even if the “care” she gives them is making sure that they get their due. That doesn’t feel particularly feminist for me, either. And it just didn’t make sense to me, narratively speaking. It went counter to everything the film built until then.

Sister Claire (Imelda Staunton) talking to Magda (Carla Juri).

Add to that that the film started to drag and drag and drag. It ultimately felt about four hours long, the pacing was so off. Not even the really excellent performances could save the film. Even though Imelda Staunton in particular was an absolute highlight – as she usually is.

There were many tantalizing things that could have been the basis for something good – the goddess, the feminist intent, but also Tomas’ experience as a refugee in London or the oppressive life Magda leads – but it just didn’t come together. I wish it had.

Tomas (Alec Secareanu) looking disheveled. A big cross can be seen behind him on the wall.

Summarizing: No, thank you.

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