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The Truth About Emanuel is almost like a fanfic in which Effy was adopted but still had her charm and issues.
Review (with Spoilers)
Probably the sole reason I saw this movie was Kaya Scodelario. Like many, I found the character of Effy to be entrancing, and have seen most Scodelario’s movies ever since. Thing is, outside of maybe Wuthering Heights, there is that slight feeling that perhaps Scodelario is type cast. However, she hasn’t really have had a breakout role to separate her from Effy, and unfortunately this movie is not that role which makes you see her in a whole new light.
Characters & Story
For The Truth About Emanuel, there is a rather small cast. Scodelario plays the lead, Emanuel, who is a girl who lost her mother, is quite open about it and pretty much has the same personality as Effy did during series/season 4. Meaning, while appealing, her issues do tend to create quite a bit of drama in her life of which some she causes, and other bits she is attracted to. Alongside her in the movie are the characters Linda (played by Jessica Biel) a woman dealing with a failed marriage; Dennis (played by Alfred Molina) who plays Emanuel’s dad; and then there is Janice (played by Frances O’Connor), the only one who seems to see Emanuel for who she is and seemingly is growing tired of Dennis creating excuses for her.
As for the story, though, we focus on the lead-up to Emanuel’s 18th birthday. She meets a guy named Claude (played by Aneurin Barnard) who she dates for a little while; meets Linda who seems nice at first, until her eccentricities are revealed; and all the while she has a step-mom in Janice who thinks she is gay, and a dad, Dennis, who just wants a sense of normalcy. But, being that Linda has a secret and Emanuel has a slight obsession with how her mom died, what life would have been like if she died instead of her mom, and other similar topics, we see two peculiar lives converge and create many moments which just leave you turning your head.
Now, though I criticize Scodelario for nearly playing the same character each role she has, it is hard to deny that most aspects of her one trick pony aren’t good. She maintains the Effy allure which gets you interested in her character, and this is what greatly helps maintain interest in the film. Also, I must note that the music in the film was quite beautiful and relaxing. And though I’m about to critique the hell out of the story, I must admit the bits between Emanuel and Claude I thought were quite cute and a saving grace for the film.
However, the rest of the film seems to not ever fully grasp the concept of grief, and while you understand the various coping mechanisms used in the film, something about the situations just feels off. Not off as in the how someone is coping or why, but the performances. Biel, in particular, doesn’t make you feel anything even though she has a very sympathetic character. Part of the reason for this is, she is presented as nothing but awkward. Not creepy, or just a sad case worth pity, she is just this odd woman whose secret doesn’t even have a real proper build in the film. Sadly, her secret is obvious early on and though you understand why she is in the film, at the same time you sort of wish she was written out.
And while, as noted earlier, Scodelario is the film’s saving grace, she does add onto the issues of the film. The reason I say this is Scodelario has that ability to teeter between being vulnerable, relatable and yet unobtainable, but once her character goes to a place where she isn’t this interesting femme fatale type, she loses you a bit. Now, this isn’t to say Scodelario isn’t able to, in this film, draw sympathy out of you, but the issue is that when it comes to her character having a mental breakdown, it shows where her abilities as an actress are lacking.
Overall: Skip It
Though I do adore Scodelario, I can’t recommend this film. Though the idea of Emanuel living vicariously through Linda’s love for her baby wasn’t lost on me, the concept just didn’t click well in the writing. Also, though I love the Effy mannerisms and personality, it is starting to get old. And really, even the cute little sub-plot of Emanuel and Claude isn’t enough to even say this is worth watching on TV. So, just skip it. Maybe if you are a fan of Scodelario it may be worth checking out, but for a general audience, there isn’t anything here worth seeing really.