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Review: Yulia & Juliet (2018)

Directed by: Zara Dwinger | 11 minutes | short film, drama | Actors: Sara Luna Zoric, Dylan Jongejans, Jaike Belfor, Suzan Boogaerdt, Issa de Jong, Cleo Duivelshof, Sjaan Flikweert, Nadja Hüpscher, Agnes Montecinos Muñoz, Dionne Verwey, Daan Westra,

Zara Dwinger (1990) graduated from the Academy with her short film “Sirene” (2017), about a teenager who pretends to be tough but suddenly discovers a completely different side of herself by a girl. “Sirene” was selected for the international competition at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand International Festival and was also well received elsewhere. A year earlier, Dwinger, a former anthropology student, filmed “Liv” (2016), about a girl who finds herself in an emotional split because her parents are getting divorced, just when she herself falls in love for the first time. The teenage phase, with its accompanying identity crisis, fascinates Dwinger. Discovering your sexuality, who you are, how you see your life and the confusion that goes with it, are therefore a central theme in her work. She likes to let the viewer look over the shoulders of her protagonist, in order to draw them into their world. Her latest short film, “Yulia & Juliet” (2018), which she shot as part of NTR Kort !, also takes up this familiar theme.

“Yulia & Juliet” puts a contemporary twist on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy “Romeo & Juliet”. The place of is a closed youth institution for girls, where Yulia (Sara Luna Zoric) and Juliet (Dylan Jongejans) find salvation in their love for each other. Their troubled relationship with their mothers (the fathers are completely absent from this story), their difficulties in making something of their lives; everything fades into the background as soon as they see each other. It is irrelevant what they have to say that they ended up in the institution. All that matters is the budding love they feel for each other. “You are the sun,” says Yulia. “Don’t be so poetic”, is Juliet’s answer, while they kiss in an unguarded moment. The juvenile detention center doesn’t really have room for a love affair, but when Juliet is told she can go home, the young lovers are completely torn apart. Yulia desperately tries to stop the release, but ends up in isolation herself. Can the girls pick up their love again later, when Yulia is allowed to go outside the walls of the institution again? Or is it better if they reunite in familiar territory, safely closed off from the evil outside world?

When you know that “Yulia & Juliet” is based on one of Shakespeare’s best-known (and most filmed) tragedies, you shouldn’t be surprised that the girls are willing to go far in their longing for a future together. With all its consequences. Dwinger succeeds without any difficulty in drawing us into the emotional world of these two teenagers. She researched life in a closed youth facility and it pays off. In an environment where you feel very unhappy, having a beacon of hope and light is a lifeline to grab onto. Yulia and Juliet are each other’s life preserver. But then their early happiness suddenly threatens to explode like a soap bubble. How intensely and fiercely the girls experience this, is convincingly made tangible thanks to strong acting by Zoric and Jongejans. And while this is undeniably a tragedy, Dwinger still leaves room for a ray of hope. The talented director worked together with the experienced screenwriter Jolein Laarman (known for “Het sister van Katia”, 2008 and “Kauwboy” 2012) and the two know how to bring out the best in each other.

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