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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

Cannes #77 - "Emilia Perez" Review

Emilia Perez is a film like no other.

French auteur Jacques Audiard goes crazy, and brings to the screen a pop opera that never loses its rhythm and constantly amazes and surprises, as you never can tell what’s going to happen next. In other words, a cinematic wonder.


The empowering musical, set in Mexico, revolves around three female characters, the frustrated and undervalued lawyer Rita (Zoe Saldaña), a merciless drug lord Manitas (Karla Sofia Gascon), and his wife (Selena Gomez). Remember when Tony Soprano decides to go to a shrink, and his weakness might cost him dearly? Well, Manitas takes his secret one step further: he wants to become a woman.


Metamorphosis is at the heart of the picture, as while the golden-toothed cartel begins his transition to the fairer sex, the film also changes genre, pirouetting into melodrama, action, and comedy, without a single faux pas. All of this without ever forgetting its lyrical nature, showcasing an array of ear-worms accompanied by mesmerising choreographies, and captured by a fluid camera that seems to dance along its cast. Worth a mention is the Busby Berkeley inspired number “Vaginoplastìa”, I trust it gives you an idea without spoiling too much.

Once transitioned thanks to Rita’s guidance and support, Manitas becomes the titular character, but Emilia Perez’s evolution is only beginning. Despite its absurd narrative, Audiard never judges or ridicules the delicate and intimate themes he deals with. He doesn’t simplify the characters’ psychologies, managing to forge charming emotional and somehow relatable layers. This is also possible since some details are directly inspired by the lead actor’s personal experience, who, drug kingpin aside, went through the same hardships of abandoning his former masculine identity while trying not to lose custody of his children.

Emilia Perez is a lot of things, but eventually they can be summed up by a passionate quest of love and redemption. Finally something fresh, and by clocking a 9 minute standing ovation at its premiere, Cannes might have already found this year’s Palm d’Or.


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