Julia is a raw film about a strung-out woman who is lured into kidnapping a young Hispanic boy and returning him to his mother south of the U.S./Mexican border. Tilda Swinton is very stunning as the alcoholic Julia, though she never seems to fully settle into the role. The character of Julia seems able to sustains an unnatural ammount of aggressive energy reminiscent of John Cassavetes’ Gloria, though without Gloria’s cool swagger.
There are obvious themes related to Julia’s subteranian longings to fulfill desires to be more stable, more mothering than she is. Though she grows more affectionate toward the kidnapped child toward the end of the film, she largely plays the role of a brutal anti-mother.
I was riveted for much of the film: it’s pacing is very well structured. I was equally concerned with what would happen next as I was with how it would happen. Can this hard-edged woman soften toward the child, and will any form of softening weaken her ability to protect the child from the circumstances that she has put that child in? Tensions such as these dangle in our minds during a story that might otherwise have been a merely plot-driven endeavor.
I will have to update my top 10 film of 2009 list in order to include Julia somewhere at the bottom, but not before catching a few more potentially stellar 2009 films.