EIFF Review: Medeas

Andrea Pallaoro's powerful study of a family faced with geographical and psychological isolation, Medeas, hits the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year.

Medeas focuses on a hard-working and stern patriarch who presides over a family of five children and a deaf and mute wife in an isolated farmhouse. With a drought hitting the environment, Ennis the patriarch struggles with the stresses of work as a dairy farmer and subsequently his relationship with his family deteriorates - with each member facing their own personal crises.

Pallaoro has crafted a real visual feast with the barren, sun-baked landscape providing some gorgeous yet fittingly bleak scenery. With little but a gas station and grocery store nearby we get a sense of the open yet claustrophobic surroundings which imprison the family resulting in their break-down in communication and subsequent relationships with each other.

Medeas's narrative gives us a sense of how each of the family members is psychologically affected by their desolate alienation: Ennis becomes increasingly short-tempered (harrowingly showcased when he abandons the family dog and also in the final few moments of the film), his wife (Catalina Sandino Moreno) begins a passionate affair with local gas station attendant (played by True Blood's Kevin Alejandro), and the children struggle through teenage angst and parental confrontation - all in isolation.

Pallaoro's narrative is anything but conventional which is unfortunately a double-edged sword. Medeas lacks a focussed structure and has a tendency to drift between characters which works as a means of further distancing us from the family, but can also result in a watch that ultimately gets hit by pacing problems which means things occasionally become tedious. Fortunately by the conclusion Medeas is ultimately so harrowing that it would be near-impossible not to be emotionally affected in some manner.

Praise should also go to Catalina Sandino Moreno for a truly raw performance. Given that her character is both deaf and mute the actress relies on subtle body language and facial expressions to capture the bleak emotion of Pallaoro's narrative. Brian F O'Byrne is equally powerful as the drained, hot-tempered patriarch who drives his family away.

Medeas is not an easy watch, but is certainly a hard-hitting one. This is a grim study of familial breakdown in the face of psychological and physical isolation, with gorgeous cinematography and rich performances.
Medeas 255908765442858125
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