Relax, recline and release your mind… Or in this case, receive a mild headache and come out feeling a little paranoid.
Written and directed by Sebastian Silva, we’re introduced to Alicia, played by the always interesting to watch Juno Temple, who is heading out to Chile with her cousin Sara, played by Emily Browning, her boyfriend and their friends for a summer at a remote cabin. Early in their travels, Sara receives a mysterious phone call beckoning her to head back home. Unable to go back with her, Alicia is forced to stay with the group.
This is when Silva starts to slowly turn up the squirm factor, things gradually become more and more uncomfortable as Alicia can’t relax. This isn’t helped by an interesting role from everyone’s favourite wood-block player* Michael Cera. Cera plays Brink, whos bad manners and obnoxious attitude don’t help Alicia warm to them or the situation.
Although Juno’s performance is definitely a high for her, it’s interesting to watch Cera play somebody very different to what we’re used to. He constantly shifts from being incredibly annoying to being down right dark and inhuman making the chemistry between him, Alicia and the rest of the group curious to watch as it teases the strange ways people can grate on and wind each other.
Although slow in pacing, Silva manages to work eerie performances from his great cast that at times make your skin crawl and at others, make you coil up in awkwardness. I suppose on one hand this does help the case for a film dealing with the mental breakdown of its leading lady, and Juno plays this brilliantly, but at other times it makes you really wonder what on earth it is you are watching. That seems to be the main flaw of this feature, its confused in how the mental breakdown is being caused.
At first it seems like the friends are pushing Alicia to the edge, playing mind games with her and planting sadistic ideas in her head, but then this shifts to Alicia just not being stable at all, becoming unreasonable, not accepting and just not listening to anyone. It was never the friends doing intentionally cruel things that lead her to become unreasonable and breakdown, they were perhaps trying to help her, hence why they asked her to come away with them for the summer, like good friends and family would. This is one way of looking at the story. Perhaps this was Silva’s intension, a look into how we perceive people dealing with mental problems?
Either way, the film never gets going like a typical horror/psychological thriller but shuffles along keeping you wondering if everything is okay and makes you ask, shouldn’t they have just gone to get her some professional help? Dealing with mental health issues is a tough subject matter and Magic Magic seems to just present a situation of someone going a bit crazy and it doesn’t really delve into anything more.