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“Amelia’s Children” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

amelias children 2024

I’m not really sure how genre fans will respond to “Amelia’s Children,” a Portuguese horror comedy about a suspicious wife, her clueless husband, and his creepy family. “Amelia’s Children” is funny, but the jokes are usually on its characters and their Freudian anxieties. It’s the quasi-gothic scenario that’s amusing here, and it’s as fraught as it is straight-forward. That and a perverse sense of humor puts “Amelia’s Children” over the top, though it’s never quite ha-ha hard enough to be satirical, nor sincere enough to be campy.

Ryley (Brigette Lundy-Paine) stumbles onto an incestuous and possibly supernatural conspiracy when her gullible husband Ed (Carloto Cotta) visits his decrepit and estranged mother Amelia (Anabela Moreira). Which is funny, because Amelia’s botched plastic surgery makes Ryley uncomfortable, and her other son, Manuel (also Cotta), has long hair and wears cowboy boats, and oh yeah, there might be something or someone in their basement.

In that sense, “Amelia’s Children” both is and isn’t unusual. Maybe you’ve seen something recent like it, like the gross-out AirBnB shape-shifter “Barbarian,” or something less current, like the great American pervert Stuart Gordon’s “Castle Freak.” Or maybe you’ve just seen “Diamantino,” a kitschy 2018 character study fantasy about a very dim man (Cotta) who unintentionally becomes the poster child for Portuguese fascism. “Diamantino” was a breakthrough (and the debut feature) for co-director Gabriel Abrantes, who also wrote and directed “Amelia’s Children.” The fact that “Amelia’s Children” also features Cotta in three roles also seems to wink at the already initiated.

“Amelia’s Children” is a superficially restrained old dark house movie whose secrets are never more compelling than its cast’s chemistry and comedic timing. Awkward silences are filled with precisely overheated exchanges, and then punctuated by deadpan expressions and inappropriate outbursts. It’s pulpy and cheeky, and I don’t know if I can recommend it to everyone. “Amelia’s Children” is still poised and grotesque enough to be charming, even when it doesn’t seem to be messing with audiences at all.

Maybe the best way to describe the humor in “Amelia’s Children” would be to call it conceptual, since the scenario is the joke, and it’s often pitched with a straight face. You have to pay attention to the way these characters often inadvertently call attention to their circumstantial ridiculousness, but rarely so much as to completely break from genre conventions. The movie starts with a flashback to an earlier incident involving child abduction and a gothic villa. Then we flash-forward to the present, where Ed thoughtlessly jams a finger into a mysterious Smartphone app accessory called a “gene reader.” Nothing suspicious there, right?

Ed’s using an app called AnceStory because he was abandoned as a baby, and now wants to know about his family. Ryley supports her partner and joins him when he takes a trip to claim his mother, his twin brother, and his unclaimed baggage. Ryley and Ed have a genuine, easy way of talking to each other in these establishing scenes, mostly in the way that she back-and-forths with him. In an establishing scene, she tries to use a language translator app to order a creamy codfish dish, just to blend in. (it’s a local delicacy) “You’re gonna have the creamiest…wettest fish,” she teases. The ellipsis between Ryley’s words matters more than their intended meaning, like when Ryley first meets Amelia and her new mother-in-law suggests that Ryley should paint her portrait. This is only funny if you enjoy watching a young woman squirm when she’s cornered by her mother-in-law, who’s had a bit too much work done.

“I love to pose,” Amelia says. Her face is immobile and mis-shapen, making it difficult to read.

“Well, I love to draw, so…” Ryley says before an awkward laugh and a short pause. “Perfect pair.”

The movie’s elusive tone might be frustrating to viewers who expect Abrantes to be more aggressive or grisly in his humor. That’s a shame, given how good Abrantes is at only slightly over-inflating the psychosexual subtext of his characters’ obviously messed-up relationships. “Amelia’s Children” never feels like a one-note joke though. Rather, it’s the same joke, about the obvious wrong-headedness of Ed’s naïve search for his roots, only it’s funny because Ryley sees his story becoming what it clearly always was. To the deluded, it’s a fairy tale; to the skeptical, it’s a horror movie.

Horror fans will probably get “Amelia’s Children,” even though it might not be to everyone’s taste. There’s a couple of unnerving and/or gross standout moments, like when Ryley snoops on Amelia with her translator app, and her phone says, on her mother-in-law’s behalf, “She’s listening.” There’s also funny hiccup-sized gags scattered throughout, like when Amelia launches into a laughably heavy reverie—“Time eats us. Like potatoes.”—and Ryley does her best to feign nonchalance: “Well, it’s so nice to meet you.” 

Abrantes could have taken bigger swings, but the ones he and his collaborators attempt are still disarming, being both unusually timed and comically well-punctuated. 

Amelia’s Children movie poster

Amelia’s Children (2024)

91 minutes

Cast

Carloto Cottaas Ed / Manuel / Artur

Brigette Lundy-Paineas Riley

Alba Baptistaas Amelia (jeune)

Anabela Moreiraas Amelia (vieille)

Director

  • Gabriel Abrantes

Writer

  • Gabriel Abrantes

“Amelia’s Children” Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download Movie Review, Live Streaming & Download

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