Teenage years are often remembered for their extreme physical, emotional, and societal changes, and cinema has long immortalised these transformations to tell stories of discovery and danger. In Araceli Lemos’ film, sisters Teresa and Emy find themselves facing further crossroads when their mother leaves them in their tight-knit Catholic community in Athens to return to the Philippines. Teresa’s uncomfortable relationship with an older Greek man soon leaves her pregnant, and Emy’s continued communication with those outside her approved religious circle causes friction with their guardians. Emy, however, finds far more radical changes in her body and soul than the usual woman experiences, but the gifts she cultivates may be older than the Church. 

Holy Emy (Agia Emi) draws imagery from Catholic traditions and pagan rituals, exploring the idea of otherness through migrant displacement and quasi-supernatural horror. It is impossible to look away from Emy’s transformation, often manifested through the violence she does herself and others along the way. Abigael Loma’s performance simmers with rage and curiosity, as new discoveries about herself and her (lack of) place in modern Greece leads her outside conventional morality. The film’s highest points stay unflinchingly with the bloody, tear-stained effects of her work, and the long-held embraces following it. 

Unfortunately, Holy Emy has almost too much on screen, even for a two-hour film. Ambiguous relationships and motivations tantalise, but threads dropped to follow new explorations frustrate. Scenes progress rapidly and violently, but the effect of Emy’s gifts – or curse – on herself, Teresa, and those she encounters is never allowed to breathe before the next miracle. Holy Emy thus misses the opportunity for reflection and long-term emotional impact, though individual sequences are memorable. 

Finding strength in complications, Holy Emy embraces magical realism to depict the migrant experience. It is a strong, if unfocused, feature debut.  



CAST: Abigael Loma, Hasmine Killip, Irene Inglesi, Michalis Syriopoulos, Angeli Bayani, Ku Aquino, Elsa Lekakou, Julio Katsis

DIRECTOR: Araceli Lemos

WRITERS: Araceli Lemos, Giulia Caruso

SYNOPSIS: When her mother returns and her sister falls pregnant, teenage Emy starts to discover new forces within her.