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TIFF 2021 Review: Murina

The arrival of a family friend offers an opportunity for teenage Julija to escape the abusive grasp of her father.

Julija (Gracija Filipović) and her father Ante (Leon Lučev) routinely go spearfishing together with the pressure amounting on the latter as he is in the midst of trying to sell his property for a luxury resort to be built.  Serving as a key mediator for the business deal is family friend Javier (Cliff Curtis) who at one time was a suitor for Julija’s mother Nela (Danica Čurčić).  The patriarch is hot-headed, possessive, and abusive physically and psychologically to his wife and daughter which only serves to encourage that later to want to seek a life in the wider world.

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Gracija Filipović is believable in portraying a teenager coming of age who starts to realize that she might be stronger than her mother when it comes to being able to break free her father.  This is not an easy thing to as Leon Lučev is a menacing presence that would wear-down a normal person.  Danica Čurčić embraces a role that requires her to be playful but also traumatized by the abusive nature of her marriage.  A credit to Cliff Curtis for not coming across as the token actor only there to help secure funding for the movie; he embodies the possibilities of the outside world and at true affection for both mother and daughter.

Water is a key visual theme with the movie opening with a surreal underwater shot and concluding with an expansive view of the surface. There is humour to be found amongst the tense family situations like when Javier uses his watch as means to get Julija out of the water.  An interesting discovery is that Martin Scorsese is listed as an executive producer which is not completely surprising as filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović is fascinated with the psychological aspects of his characters and their dealings with one another.  The editing is abrupt in a couple of moments making one wonder if cuts were made because of budget restraints rather than story reasons.

The 46th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 9-18, 2021, and for more information visit    

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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