Some films just nail the creepy factor without being creepy at all. Others know they are creepy and flaunt it. In the dramatic thriller, THE TRUTH ABOUT EMANUEL the subtle way it goes about being creepy is very stylish. You almost want to pretend for the sake of the characters that it isn’t creepy at all. Sort of like the crowd watching the Emperor pass with no clothes. You are afraid that if you point out the obvious you will find the joke is actually on you; if there is a joke at all.
Emanuel (Kaya Scodelario) is a troubled young girl who has never gotten over the loss of her mother. Her father (Alfred Molina) has raised her well but she still feels like she is living outside herself. She is smart and funny, often at the sake of others, and you have to wonder if it is all just a way to get attention. When a single mom (Jessica Biel) with a new baby moves in next door Emanuel is drawn to her immediately. But Emanuel soon discovers a fictional world and has to work hard to keep everyone else out.
Francesca Gregorini wrote and directed this film and she does a brilliant job of staging each scene so that the tension is always there even if for no reason. You are on the edge of your seat and breathing softly, afraid that the actors will find you looking in. You know that things are not as they seem as you engage with the characters on screen. You feel sorry for them and know that you will share whatever emotion comes next. At the same time you get the sense that you really don’t know the truth at all.
Scodelario is a talented young British actress who plays this part nicely. You see her teetering between two worlds and it is believable. She is lost, hurting, and emotionally unattached. Yet there is a playful wit about her that is obviously a shroud. Biel will surprise many in this role. It is quite the curve ball from her normal offering. She is the one that you can’t figure out. As your mind try’s to guess the truth she is the biggest obstacle.
This film could have gone many different routes in way of content and shock value. Luckily it has enough confidence in its script and director that it never takes the easy way out. It refuses to add any gratuitous elements but instead allows the mind of the viewer to decide what is happening off-screen. It is in the vein of Hitchcock films where you get just enough to hook you in. It is a bit more fantasy than old Alfred would have dared but still a classic thriller premise. When it is all said and done you find it to be a touching film more than anything and all your fears float gently away.
The Truth About Emanuel is not rated but is geared for those 18 and older. Some of the language and thematic material is best suited for older theater goers. I give it 3.75 out of 5 bike rides. A perfect on-demand choice or if you want something a bit out of the box then look for it now in your art house theaters .