The Truth About Emanuel opened in theaters on Jan. 10. It is a dark film by writer-director Francesca Gregorini, and is centered on two women. They both display a multitude of emotional issues, including mental instability. Although the actors played their roles well, you feel somewhat uncomfortable watching this. Perhaps it’s the secret that the main characters share, or the strange bond that develops, but as a whole it just doesn’t work.
The movie’s title is based on a 17-year-old girl named Emanuel, played by Kaya Scodelario. When the film opens, the audience is immediately drawn into the world of this troubled teen whose initial voiceover includes the phrase: “My name is Emanuel. I’m 17 years old and I killed my mother.” We soon come to realize that she didn’t actually murder her mother. Her mom died while giving birth to Emanuel, and she has carried a burden of guilt her entire life.
With her 18th birthday approaching, Emanuel’s feelings of being responsible for her mother’s death are intensified. She states, “It’s me who pays. It’s on my tab. And it accumulates interest with every passing year.” It is evident from the way she behaves that her problems are far more deep-rooted than typical teen rebellion. Scodelario does a good job of making this character appear edgy, distant and annoying; yet somehow the audience likes Emanuel. She lives with her father, played by Alfred Molina, and her step-mom, played by Frances O’Connor. Both of these actors are successful in their characters’ parenting roles, and enhance the shock factor that Scodelario brings to the table.
When a new neighbor moves in next door, Emanuel becomes fascinated with her. The neighbor Linda, played by Jessica Biel, is a single woman with a newborn baby. She reminds Emanuel of her own mother and even looks similar to her photos. The two build a friendship of sorts, and Emanuel even offers to babysit for her. Biel is successful in showing a maternal side to her character and also mixes in a good dose of the unpredictable.
About 30 minutes into the movie, Linda’s shocking secret is revealed. It was too soon for this information to be divulged. The film’s full potential could have developed more completely if this had not come to light so quickly.
When Emanuel learns Linda’s secret she chooses to keep it. This strengthens their unnatural type of kinship into a dark road of twists and turns. We discover through the last half of the film just how psychotic these two women can be.
Yet another facet of this film is the relationship that builds between Emanuel and her new boyfriend Claude, played by Aneurin Barnard. There are some humorous moments between these two characters, but the chemistry is just average.
So, does the secret come out? Do either one of these main characters find resolution for their emotional imbalances? To fully answer these questions would require a spoiler alert. You’ll have to see the film in order to find out.
The most prominent issue throughout this movie was each character’s attempt to maneuver through the grieving process. First, you have Emanuel who is basically mad at the world. She lashes out with reckless behavior and is in the guilt and anger stage of grief. Secondly, there is Linda who is in the denial stage. She has basically developed a fantasy world in her mind and believes it is reality.
Although the movie didn’t meet my expectations, it did get me thinking about how people deal with grief and loss in real life scenarios. This process is one of the most difficult emotional rollercoasters that a person can ever endure. Each person will go through the stages differently. Some will heal quicker, while others will circle repeatedly amongst the varied phases. One thing that we can rely on during times of grief is Scripture. The Bible offers enormous comfort during our darkest hours.
Yahweh is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves those who have a crushed spirit.—Psalm 34:18