Murina: Young Critics Reviews Tensions rise between restless teenager Julija and her oppressive father Ante when an old family friend arrives at their Croatian island home. As Ante attempts to broker a life-changing deal, their tranquil yet isolated existence leaves Julija wanting more from this influential visitor, who provides a taste of liberation over a weekend laid bare to desire and violence. Year: 2021 Runtime: 92 minutes Language: Croatian, English, Spanish Country: Croatia, Brazil, Slovenia, United States Director: Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic Cast: Gracija Filipović, Danica Čurčić, Leon Lučev, Cliff Curtis Review by Adelaide Kane Set on a scenic Croatian island, Murina is the story of Julija (Gracija Filipović) and her tenuous relationship with both her father (Leon Lučev) and mother (Danica Curcic). When her father invites his old friend Javier (Cliff Curtis), who is also his wife’s old flame, to visit to attempt to sell him his land, Julija intertwines herself in the relationships of the adults when she sees a chance at a better life for herself. Seeing the happiness of her mother at Javier’s return and enjoying the pleasant company he brings in comparison to the strictness of her father, she tries to get one to replace the other. Julija is a headstrong character who lacks experience in interpersonal relationships as she is isolated from others, leading to some contention with her family despite the fact they are partly to blame in their alienation of her. Review by Benedict Hudson Murina is the feature length directorial debut of Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic and starsGracija Filipović, Cliff Curtis,Danica Čurčić, andLeon Lučev. It follows Filipović as Julija who, while on vacation in the Mediterranean, struggles with her dislike for her father and tries to determine how to move forward in life. Murina excellently portrays the struggles of having to have an almost obligatory familial love for someone who you may not even like, and how difficult this can be when you are young and do not have any other choice. The use of realistic dialogue and the nuanced performances help to bring to life this awkward tension that exists between Julija’s father and the rest of the family, and this makes parts of the film quite uncomfortable to watch. This feeling aids the film’s message and helps the audience to connect with the protagonist more, in an ultimately very engaging watch. Review by Brian Griffin Produced by Martin Scorsese, Murina is an intimate look at the family life of Julija (played byGracija Filipović), a teenage girl that deals with all sorts of neglect from her father (played by Leon Lucev) as they struggle to sell their house and land to a wealthy foreign friend of the family. The beautiful scenic views of the Croatian coastline blend effortlessly to the picturesque area that the family is trying to sell. But just as all seems peaceful, the undercurrents of a family gradually being torn apart by stories from the past and of false promises, bubble to the surface to become threats to not just the deal, but to the family’s safety. Great performances and an interesting story mesh to create a tense family drama on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. Review by Cian Griffin Murina, the debut film from director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, is a meandering and overall dull experience that does not deliver on its initial potential. Telling the story of a young Croatian girl Julija who is struggling to escape from her domineering and controlling father, the film is full of characters that lack emotionally complexity or any signs of character development. The lead performances are across the board very one note with the characters bordering on archetypes. After an arresting opening that establishes a sense of intrigue and incredible tension, the film really never gets off the ground and instead becomes a bit of a slog, failing to build momentum or maintain the same level of suspense. Kusijanovic is clearly a talented director but a series of fantastic underwater sequences, the beauty of Croatia and a hauntingly beautiful score are not enough to save this film from mediocrity. Review by Darragh Hynes A coming-of-age story that makes a splash! From writer-director, Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, Murina tells the story about a teenage girl named Julija (Gracija Filipovic) on a holiday at sea with her family. She meets her controlling father’s closest friend, who treats her better than her biological father does. It is then when Julija wants to replace her father with his friend as her guardian. The plot is very intriguing as it makes the audience feel sympathy for Julija and understand why she wants to be rid of her father. The acting is very believable from each actor. The father (Leon Lucev) is easily hateable, partly due to a convincing performance. Although Julija’s relationship with her father is clear, it would have also been interesting to have seen more from the rest of the family. The cinematography is also gorgeous as it takes full advantage of the bright sun and sea. Review by Ellie McCarthy Directed by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic A teenage girl decides to replace her controlling father with his wealthy foreign friend during a weekend trip to the Adriatic Sea. I found this film very hard to get into but I ended up really enjoying it. The main actors were quite good although I felt the father (Leon Lucev) was always acting to a different level than the rest of the cast. His anger was very convincing and he was incredibly good at conveying the abusive stereotype he played, but I felt that the reactions to his actions were not matched. I found the first 45 minutes quite boring. I felt that there was a lot of scenes that did not move the story on and did not need to be there. I would have enjoyed more scenes like the confrontation and the main character Julija talking to the other characters. I found in some scenes the audio was also very distracting and not mixed well. Overall I enjoyed the film but felt it fell at certain points. Review by Emily Macrander It isn’t hard to fall under the seductive spell of Murina, the debut feature of Croatian director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović which tells the coming of age story of Julija (Gracija Filipović) who finds an opportunity to fight against and perhaps get rid of her oppressive father Ante (Leon Lucev) when his millionaire friend comes to visit them and Julija’s mother Nela (Danica Curcic). The arrival of the handsome Javier played, perhaps surprisingly so to some viewers, by New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis, marks the beginning of power shifts and mind games played mainly by the teenage daughter who below the surface seems unsure of whether she sees Javier as a father or a lover. Again and again, and in quite literal terms when one considers the gorgeous underwater cinematography, we delve below the surface.But, the deeper we go, the darker it gets. Although Cliff Curtis is the only recognizable face amongst the protagonists, the whole cast excels and delivers subtle performances that handle the slow-burning conflicts with grace. Especially Filipović is captivating in her role of Julija (both character name and actress also appear in Kusijanović’s previous short film Into The Blue which is concerned with a similar setting and themes) and although she is only 20 years old, she appears on screen with ease both on the rocky shore and the blue waters. As part of this year’s Berlinale’s European Shooting Stars Programme, there is no doubt that she will soon be a respected face amongstthe stars of European cinema. Not just in front, but also behind the camera Murina’s team excels. The images are simultaneously beautiful and tense, capturing the masterfully directed and blocked conversations. Director of Photography Hélène Louvart’s images show us a paradisiacal island on which we arrive together with boats of rich tourists invited by Javier but the longer we stay on this island after the party is over, the more we realise that what seemed like heaven, also has its darker side, a side that resides in the dysfunctional family unit. Only little and very subtle music is needed to complete the seduction of the audience, never overpowering the emotional subtext already present in the script. When all these elements come together in a 90-minute film, it makes for a 5-star watch, a viewing experience only improved by the knowledge that this was only the start of an exciting directing career for Kusijanović whose future work is now eagerly awaited. Review by Eoin O'Donnell “Paradise is where dreams go to die”. In the opening shot of Murina, a young woman is adrift and alone, surrounded by shimmering crystal waters and gorgeous Croatian islands. Initially, it’s hard to see how she could want anything more, but Julija is weighed down; trapped by an overbearing father, and anchored to a mother too timid to stand between them. When a handsome, charismatic childhood friend of her father's, arrives from America, she sees an opportunity to escape and to truly live. Cliff Curtis is irresistibly charismatic as Javi, and Gracija Filipovic’s Julija is terrific. The pair’s chemistry is strong and layered, her infatuation wavering between genuine and performative. The Lost Daughter’s Hélene Louvert lenses the film with the same nightmarish vision of paradise with something sinister beneath its surface, and director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s script is sharp and foreboding. Murina may not tread much new ground, but as a feature debut for both its director and its lead, it’s a fantastic achievement. Review by Hazel O'Leary A stunning psychological drama and coming-of-age story that avoids the more vacant tropes of the genre. Writers Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović and Frank Graziano crafted compelling characters brimming with nuance and complexity. Gracija Filipović playing Julia, an angst-ridden, sullen teen who tries to replace her father’s presence in her life with that of his wealthy friend, brings an impressive level of credibility to the role, portraying the perfect mix naivety, arrogance and passion that comes naturally to teenagers. Shot on the Croatian islands of Hvar, Kornati and Koločep, cinematographer Hélène Louvart captures the hypnotic beauty of the Adriatic sea, taking full advantage of the islands’ privacy to craft a setting that is one person’s idyllic paradise, and another’s prison. Alamat Kusijanović brings the complicated inner-turmoil of adolescence to the forefront of Murina, while shining a light on the chauvinistic point of view from which we are often told to view young women. Review by Jamie Waddell Murina is the astonishing directorial debut from Antonela Alamat Kusijanovic. International co-produced with the help of Martin Scorsese, this is a film following Julija and her quest to rid herself of her coercive father. Featuring a stunning feature debut from Grajica Filipovic, this multi-lingual film focuses on a business event involving Julija’s father and his wealthy businessman friend who is trying to purchase his land. Little does he know that Julija’s father has many skeletons in his closet. Set on the divine Croatian coast, Kusijanovic expertly weaves between showing this stunning coastal resort both as a holiday destination and a scorching, arid prison with little chance of escape. Aquatic imagery is abundant throughout, with the titular Murina (eel in Croat-Latin) a menacing presence throughout. Dialogue that flits between Croat and English, characters are communicating their true desires behind the wealthy businessman’s back, ratcheting up the tensions and raising the stakes. Review by John Brady It took a while for me to get into Murina. It's opening shot is very static and the same is true of its first act. It depicts a family living in a remote paradise; island going through their daily routines. It's likely that the film will lose a lot of people during this opening. It almost lost me. Yet watch closely, and you'll find there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. There are subtle actions taken by the characters that imply that this is not a healthy family unit. Something is wrong. There's a scene where our protagonist, Julija is gutting fish and sees her father speaking in whispers to other men. They each wear the same sombre face. She sees them from a distance, through a gap in the wall. There's another scene later on, where Julija is discussing outfits with her mother. She dismissively tells her mother that she is just going to wear whatever dad tells her. These moments are subtle, almost blink and you'll miss it in nature. However, they pull you into the story and invite you to question this family dynamic. The screenplay is packed with moments like this. Writers Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic and Frank Graziano play things very close to the chest. They are constantly implying things but very rarely definitively stating them. This involves the audience in the storytelling process, allowing them to come to their own conclusions about the characters. This gives the actors plenty to play with. They all rise to the challenge. With Gracija Filipovic and Leon Lucev serving as the highlights. Filipovic is gloriously subtle. For the most part, she's silent, yet a subdued sigh or glance at the ground tells us that inside she's screaming. Lucev delivers an impressively layered performance here. His character could easily be one dimensional but Lucev adds a layer of sadness to the character. For every moment of rage, there's another one of shame. Murina's story is not told in a conventional manner and it's all the better for it. So it makes sense that the film's visual style would follow suit. As a film student, the logistics of this film's sea driven visuals makes my brain fry. Yet, however difficult the process may have been, it's one of the film's best achievements. Cinematographer Hélène Louvart captures the beauty and danger of the Adriatic Sea with equal amounts of grace. The underwater sections are a visual treat. There's a surprisingly large number of them throughout the film. They disconnect you from the characters both visually and audibly. Yet director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic finds a way to keep them filmic and a crucial part of the character's journey. They also help the film's pacing greatly. Murina is a lot of things but fast moving is not one of them. Thus, the underwater sections inject some much needed visual dynamism. A subtle, quiet film that trusts the audience to come to their own conclusions. Quote: Dreams die in paradise Review by Juliana Wong The film begins with an underwater shot of our main character, Julija (Gracija Filipovic), and her neglectful father, Ante (Leon Lucev), caring harpoons used to capture the mediteranian eel, Murina. Julija's life is exactly what you'd find in a European film: long, boring summers with only her parents to talk to. However, a family friend, Javier (Cliff Curtis), pays them a visit and completely changes their summer. While there appears to be a connection between the mother, Nela (Danica Curcic), and Javier, he appears to be more interested in the daughter. This makes Nela envious and sparks a feud within the family. Ante, who is abusive from the start, becomes even more manipulative after the newcomer arrives, embarrassing Julija in front of the guest and making Julija question her choices. The story is a beautiful coming-of-age that examines the transition from adolescence to adulthood in all of its facets, from questioning family expectations to exploring sexuality. Review by Khushi Jain On the breathtakingly beautiful coastal seascape of Croatia, Murina unfolds a family drama of abuse, misogyny and freedom. The film’s epicentre is Julija (Gracija Filipovic), who belongs more to the sea than land. Ripe and reckless for womanhood, she bears her father’s autocracy and mother’s perceived passivity. This already troubled familial triad is further agitated by the arrival of an old friend, creating a domestic storm of disturbing proportions. Dexterously heavy with symbolism, the film is a narrative feat. It collapses the vast sublime of the ocean with individual ambitions and anxieties, to produce a raw and intimate coming-of-age drama. Julija spends almost the entire film in a swimsuit, remaining incessantly tethered to the sea. It is a treat watching Filipovic bring her to life with such authenticity. Murina certainly marks a sparkling blue debut for Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović. Review by Kieran Brennan In Murina, a rocky father and daughter relationship is sent into a bit of a spiral when a family friend arrives, driving a wedge between the family. This coming of age family drama deals with the complex relationships and emotions that come with family issues, delivering a compelling, if angsty, film that just about sticks the landing. Characters are well defined, though the father character feels too cartoonish, people like him exist in real life of course, but he lacks the depth and nuance for the audience to understand him. Murina also suffers at times from a pacing issue. Somewhere in the second act it slows down and begins to drag just enough to be noticable, that being said the pace is picked right back up or a satisfying and well thought out final act. Worth a watch, but shouldn't be at the top of your watchlist. Review by Leone Wright When watching a movie sometimes it’s impossible not to notice the love and attention that the crew put into the work, and “Murina” is a prime example of this. We follow the life of Julija, (Gracija Filipovic), a teenager trapped in an abusive household. She does not act like a stereotypical victim as seen when Julija tells her mother Nela (Danica Curic) she is “done with orders for today” after dealing with her father, Ante’s (Leon Luvec) controlling behavior. When her father’s friend Javier (Cliff Curtis) visits with promises of a better life for a weekend she relishes in the break from her toxic reality. Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic who directed and wrote Murina succeeded in creating three dimensional characters such as Nela, who surprises the audience at every turn with changing opinions and secrets to uncover. The script is very naturally written and the actors deliver it flawlessly. Review by Nellie Warren In Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s “Murina,” the viewer encroaches on a beautiful Croatian island just in time to watch teenage Julija bristle under her overbearing father, who seems to have control over both her and her mother’s lives. The dynamic between these three is utterly believable, although it is interrupted by the arrival of the parents’ old friend, who seems to become the vessel for change that Julija is looking for. The deep tension of “Murina,” is backed by stunning cinematography by Hélène Louvart, often focused on the glittering sea, which is both Julija’s prison and her escape. It is home to the film’s titular sea creature: a fish which, despite its beauty, can be dangerous to humans if its space is not respected. As the film presses on, Julija learns to set boundaries with her father, and if these boundaries are not revered, then she will bite back like a moray eel. Review by Philip Spillane A story in and out of the Adriatic Sea; Seventeen year old Julija wants to break free from her childhood, seeing the possibility when a wealthy friend of her father’s visits her beach home. A complicated love triangle begins, between Julija, her mother and this successful visitor, with her domineering father caught in the middle and trying to take back control. Which character breaks first? Director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s debut, she masters half this movie literal under the ocean. Whenever a character dips their head under, sounds of the bubbling ocean create a convincing effect. A huge admiration goes out to the challenge of orchestrating such scenes, as in water; acting and directing will be very different. This creates a unique film with obvious talent. As Julija must navigate through a maze of promises and must come out the other side as a woman. Review by Pia Roycroft As Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’ first feature film, Murina stands out for all the right reasons. It is a visually pleasing realist film with themes of class struggles, sexism & abuse. Julija (Gracija Filipovic), is a young teenage Croatian girl who fishes daily to bring home eels with her father, Ante (Leon Lucev), to feed their family. The arrival of the bourgeois Javier (Cliff Curtis) starts the real conflict of the film, as Javier and Julija’s mother Nela (Danica Curcic) have a significant romantic history, sparking both financial and romantic jealousy in Ante, leading him to take his anger out on Julija, causing her to rebel. This almost seems like a domino effect, however from what we see of the family’s dynamic throughout the film, it seems as if the conflict was something that was going to happen eventually. The characters are written quite well. You immediately hate Ante and love to hate him, however he turns out to not be the only antagonist, as it seems that every adult in the film is not only against each other, but against Julija as well. Javier is a twist villain of sorts, as it is revealed at the end that he does not want to help Julija in any way and lied to her and Nela. Nela is another villainous character as she starts off seemingly very loving and caring, but as soon as she gets jealous, she turns on her own daughter. Nela does not want to fight against the men of the story and is quick to reinforce misogynistic views on her daughter, often shaming her. This is very different to the unconditionally loving mother trope, and is very fresh and realistic. The main aspect of the film that catches one’s attention is of course the phenomenal cinematography by Hélène Louvart, who is known for her work on Printemps perdu? (1990), among others. She utilises metaphor well within her cinematography, and with this supports the story successfully, reflecting the concept of “trouble in paradise” through the usage of colour and shade. There is a strong commentary on misogyny in the film, with Julija’s rebellion against her family being very symbolic and echoed by the line at the beginning, “look how she bites her own flesh to set herself free”. With this, we are shown that the implied metaphor within the film is that Julija herself is the eel, or murina in Serbo-Croatian. This is echoed by her absolute adoration of swimming and her being in the water for the majority of the film, and how she only seems to be truly happy when underwater. Julija bites (confronts) her own flesh (her family) to set herself free, and the ending of the film is left ambiguous, with Julija swimming off into the abyss of the ocean. There is only one major conflict which makes the story basic overall, but in that way it is realistic. In real life there are never convoluted storylines, just ordinary people with ordinary conflicts. Review by Ronan Watters You always get the feeling that something terrible is going to happen between our main character Julija and her psychologically abusive father, Ante. Their relationship is volatile at best. Things only get worse when an old family friend of Antes, Javier turns up. He awakens a spirt in Julija that has largely been oppressed, but this creates tension with Julijas mother,who was once Javier’s lover. The beautiful cinematography is in sharp contrast to the ugly interior of the Croatian seaside village. The sea acts as Julijas symbol. She seems calm on the surface but volatile beneath. The ending hints that she may one day break free from her father, albeit in a way that may cost her everything. Murina is a very good film and certainly worth a watch. The performances and cinematography alone are worth the price of admission. Review by Tess O'Regan The deep blue of the sea surrounds. Far above, light ripples across the surface with the rhythm of the waves, calm and waiting. This is how Murina, the debut feature of co-writer and director Almat Kusjanovic, opens. Imaginatively shot by cinematographer Hélène Louvart (The Lost Daughter) the remainder of Murina stays true to its vivid and watery opening. The Croatian coast. Julija (Gracija Filipovic) and her mother Nela (Danica Curcic) are stuck with abusive father/husband Ante (Leon Lucev). Enter Javier, played by Cliff Curtis (The Piano), an old friend of Ante’s who is looking to buy their land. Writers Kusjanovic and Frank Graziano have created a claustrophobic world for the women where they can turn to no one, even each other. Filipovic (a Kusjanovic veteran, working with her on the 2017 short Into the Blue where she played a similar character) and Curcic are heartbreaking in their roles. Review by William Walsh Murina tells the story of Julija, a girl that struggles to live with her abusive father. Tensions rise between them when her father’s rich friend visits, leading Julija to consider some life changing decisions. The film is inspired by director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic's 2017 short film "Into the Blue". Despite the serious subject matter, Kusijanovic's first feature- length film uses the easygoing pace of a slice of life film to tell its story, an appropriate choice since the film focuses more on scenes of quiet interaction than loud set-pieces. The film is set in the vast Adriatic Sea, an effective location as these beautiful scenes of the ocean and beaches (not to mention the diving scenes) are contrasted against the tension and occasional violence within the film. Murina's story of a teenager looking for a better life is definitely a story that has been told before, but its use of location makes it stand out from the crowd.