Murina review – smouldering intensity, fragile manhood and young beauty | Movies


There is a lot about emotional tension and teen yearning and the semi-official sexiness of swimming costumes in this confident directorial debut from Croatian film-maker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, though I wondered about some beautifully shot visual cliches.

Julija (Gracija Filipovic) is the teenage daughter of Ante (Leon Lucev), an aggressively insecure man whom she has to help, diving underwater with him while he makes a living on the rocky Adriatic coastline spear-fishing moray eels (the “murina” of the title). She is reasonably close to her mum Nela (Danica Curcic) but otherwise unhappily proud and self-contained. Her father is jittery with excitement because his old friend Javi (Cliff Curtis) is coming to visit: a super-rich alpha male who may be interested in buying some of Ante’s land to turn into a holiday resort. It is something of an open secret that Javi was once in love with Nela and may be still, and he is also much taken with Julija’s young beauty.

Ante realises at some conscious level that adroitly keeping those feelings alive could help close the deal, but it’s a dangerous game, and his own fragile patriarchal manhood is at stake. As for Javi, does he quite realise that the land Ante is trying to sell him is on the island of Kornat, which locals consider blighted by the real-life tragedy of 2007 when 12 firefighters lost their lives there trying to put out a blaze?

All this is acted with smouldering intensity and authenticity, particularly by Filipovic, although it’s possible to wonder if there is anything unexpected to come in the third act, or if we can roughly guess where it’s all heading. And also … dreamy-hallucinatory underwater sequences in the movies are becoming over-familiar. At any rate, there are some very persuasive performances, and lovely cinematography by Hélène Louvart.

Murina is in cinemas from 8 April.

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