Holy Emy is a movie I wanted to be blown away by. I loved the story idea and the cast was first-rate. Unfortunately, the lack of explanation in story points, low development in relationships between characters, and the jam-packing of high tension moments with no room for emotional absorption left me disappointed.
Teresa and Emy are two young Filipina immigrants living in a tight-knit Catholic community in Athens. Their mother is back in the Philippines for an undisclosed amount of time and in the mother’s absence, the two girls try to forge a life for themselves in this new community (with the help of a legal guardian). While navigating the struggles of everyday life, Teresa and Emy face some unique challenges. Specifically, Emy faces a unique condition that manifests as bleeding tears and the ability to heal. This great power comes with a great burden as young Emy tries to make sense of everything around her.
So much about Holy Emy is beautiful: the story, the imagery, and the knockout cast to name a few. That being said, Holy Emy was not without frustration. There is so much story packed into a two-hour film that many interesting subplots and essential storyline plot points are never fully explained. Ambiguity seems to be the name of the game when defining relationships. The only real, concrete, well-understood relationship was between Emy and Teresa. And maybe perhaps this is the point, a primary focus on two sisters as they take on life’s difficult changes. Artistically this is a beautiful choice, but as an audience member, I would like to have seen a little more relationship development/motivation for the other characters.
Holy Emy may have had shortcomings in terms of developing strong definitive relationships between its characters, but that did not stop this fantastic cast from delivering inspired performances that capture your attention simply because they are that good. Abigael Loma absolutely shines as gifted Emy. Emy is a tough character to play. There is A LOT of internal turmoil and so much that cannot be said with words, but with body language, expression, and eyes. Loma has mastered the art of saying so much without saying anything at all and she serves as a wonderful epicenter for a wave of supporting talent. Special recognition should be given to Hasmine Kilip for her work as Teresa, Emy’s older sister. Teresa is complex in her own way too and offers a nice contrast to Emy’s stony exterior. Kilip does an excellent job of leaving you frustrated with Teresa one minute, then empathizing with her the next. Mihalis Siriopoulos was a welcomed antagonist as Argyris, he was aloof and simple and embodied the issue with exotification of Asian women. The entire cast of Holy Emy deserves recognition for adding something important to the story they are telling.
In addition to an impressive cast, Holy Emy was rife with beautiful imagery. Individual sequences were hauntingly beautiful. There are nods to Catholicism and paganism, wrapped in the imagery of immigrant struggles and that the search for a better life doesn’t always turn out the way one hopes. One moment I found particularly captivating was at the Catholic debutante ball, Emy cuts in and interrupts the dance between Teresa and Mike, a local boy. Emy begins to dance with Teresa and hugs her so tight that you can’t help but feel everything those characters are feeling in that moment. Additionally, the sequence when Emy heals Ismini was perhaps one of the high points of the film. It was emotional, intense, and captured the spirit of the film.
Overall there are a lot of things to like about Holy Emy. The cast was outstanding, the cinematography was grand, and the imagery was beautiful. Unfortunately, much of the story’s impact is lost to lack of explanation. If you want a film with a solid story then keep looking. But if you want to watch two hours of beautiful film, then look no further.
6 out of 10