‘Marilyn’ is a Deceptively Dark Coming of Age

It is unlikely that the tragedy that inspired Marilyn would have reached all the way to Britain, but it is a story rooted in an area without many of the freedoms that money, infrastructure, and education bring. Marilyn is comprised of many interwoven plot threads, and at first it appears similar to coming of age stories such as El Viaje, another great Argentinian film. 18-year-old Marcos (Walter Rodríguez), hangs around an empty countryside, caught between the need to express himself and the traditional values of his family. Their uneasy existence is threatened when the farm they live at is attacked and Marcos’ father is brutally murdered. Scared for the safety of his cattle, the farmer decides he has no choice but to evict Marcos and their family.

Alongside this plot line, Marcos embarks on a journey of self-discovery. When the carnival arrives in town Marcos seizes the chance to attend dressed as their alter-ego, Marilyn. It is here we see them smile for the first time. Free, unbeholden to who their mother wants them to be – they are free. Unfortunately, this night ends in despair when the boys from the town sexually assault Marilyn.

We also see the introduction of a first love – Facu. A quick, but intimate romance with a boy from the town where Marcos’ mother applies to buy a house. A relationship that puts Marcos at odds with their traditional and unforgiving mother. 

Marilyn truly shines early on when the carnival arrives. Carnivals signify disguise and illusion – we can be someone other than ourselves. Director Martín Rodríguez Redondo uses this symbol to introduce us to Marilyn. Here, in the world of masquerade, Marilyn is free to be themselves. They dance and twirl, alone but smiling. Enjoying a night where they live only by their rules. It is a moment so different from the rest of the film, filled with energy and joy. But it is cut short by the arrival of those local boys mentioned earlier. 

For the most part, Marilyn is a quiet, understated film, allowing the plot to unfold without much dramatic intervention from an editor. It is Marcos/Marilyn’s story and only right that they are the driving force of the piece. They pull the audience between the different worlds, the quiet isolation of their family, the world of disguise with their friend Laura, to the intimate moments shared with Facu. Marcos is so many things to different people and Walter Rodriguez balances them all with a beautiful and tragic performance, which makes the ending even more shocking.

This is 2019, people say, LGBTQ+ people have more visibility and acceptance in certain areas of the world than ever before, but that does not mean that the prejudices have truly disappeared. Marilyn reminds us that many of us have the luxury to choose who we want to be, to love freely, and believe that the world is moving towards tolerance. But in the arrogant, homophobic teenagers that bully Marcos and their mother’s refusal to meet his eyes when they brings Facu home – we see there is still a long way to go.

It is made even more heartbreaking with the knowledge that it is based on a true story; a young person felt so trapped by the inability to express their identity that they resort to drastic measures. Given the gentle tone of the main body of the film, the ending is a massive shock. But it is a reminder that not all coming of age stories have endings of acceptance and fulfilment. Marilyn is a dark reminder in a world where civil rights have stagnated. This film teaches us that the fight is not over.

Marilyn is released on DVD in the US on April 30th

by Mia Garfield

Mia Garfield has just finished a degree in Film at Falmouth University. She has written about the female voice in cinema and negotiating the position of the female director. She has just finished her first short film ‘Sonder’, keep an eye out for it at festivals in the UK. A big lover of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Mythology, her taste is varied and every time she is asked about her favourite film she gives a different answer. Today her favourite films include Howl’s Moving Castle, Memoirs of A Geisha, How to Train Your Dragon, and Big Hero 6. You can find her @miajulianna2864


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