Hideous Kinky

1998, Movie, R, 99 mins

Review

HIDEOUS KINKY
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A sixties journey of spiritual discovery, with the twist that perpetual seeker Julia (Kate Winslet) drags her small daughters Lucy and Bea (Carrie Mullan, Bella Riza) along on the road to self-enlightenment. Disenchanted with cold, gray England and an unsatisfying relationship with her children's self-centered father, Julia decamps to Morocco, hoping to make sense of her life through Sufism. Without money or regular work, they wind up in a run-down hotel frequented by prostitutes, anxiously awaiting all-too infrequent assistance from Julia's neglectful ex. The children are initially enchanted by the exotic colors and smells of North Africa, and Lucy is captivated by Bilal (Said Taghmaoui), a street entertainer who becomes Julia's gentle and loyal lover. But eight-year-old Bea is frustrated by their aimless existence. She longs for school and discipline and an ordered home life, particularly after the makeshift family takes an extended trip to Bilal's remote hometown, where it's made painfully clear what outsiders they are and will always be. Based on the autobiographical novel by Esther Freud (which owes its title to a word game played by two girls still young enough to value words for sound rather than meaning), this delicate, visually ravishing story of twisted family ties rests on a quartet of phenomenal performances, made more remarkable by the fact that two of them are by young children. Filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon doesn't try to tell his story through the eyes of the open and innocent Lucy, as the novel does. But its earlier sections capture brilliantly the slightly addled wonder of Europeans in a land of 1000 exotic sights and sounds. The film's gradual slide into a darker vision of the casual selfishness and presumption that often lay at the heart of Westerners' mind-bending journeys to the East is subtle and quietly devastating. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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