Film Review: ‘Kill Me Please’

Anita Rocha da Silveira's arresting debut feature is a fever dream of adolescent sexuality with a retro giallo flavor.

Valentina Herszage, Dora Freind, Julia Roliz, Mari Oliveira, Bernardo Marinho, Vitor Mayer, Laryssa Ayres, Lorena Compareto, Vicente Conde, Gabriel Lara, Matheus Malafaia, Antara Morri.

Teen sexual exploration and the coming-of-age tale are first-feature cliches, but such is the range of human experience (and art) that there’s always room for a new vision to make that familiar territory seem fresh. The Brazilian film “Kill Me Please” offers a bracingly distinctive turn on those well-worn themes by chronicling a group of adolescent girls’ hormonally restless summer during a wave of murders in their West Zone neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Anita Rocha da Silveira’s arresting debut feature captures the queasy mix of desire and fear among kids who are sexually inexperienced, yet can think of little else. Pop kitsch, social satire, dreamy narrative unreliability and retro giallo-thriller vibes further flavor a movie at once bold and cryptic. Likely to incite strong if uneven critical response (as well as sales interest), it certainly marks its director as a talent to watch.

Still in school during the onerous heat of the season, our 15-year-old heroines run in a pack: There’s central protagonist Bia (Valentina Herszage), gossipy Michele (Julia Roliz), flirtatious Mariana (Mariana Oliveira) and slightly overweight, insecure Renata (Dora Freind). They all live in nearby apartment blocks, where Bia’s older brother Joao (Bernardo Marinho) is nearly always at home — though their mother almost never is. (Indeed, adults are nowhere to be seen in this film’s exclusively teenaged psychological and social universe, with even teachers kept off-screen.)

The usual adolescent fascination with all things sexual and/or icky is in collective hyperdrive at present, because their own Barra da Tijuca district is being plagued by murders — young women being found stabbed and/or strangled to death in the open fields between major roads and the massive apartment complexes. Police are as yet uncertain whether there’s one killer or more. That lack of known suspects or other intel feeds into the kind of thrilled, paranoid urban-mythologizing that impressionable minds (especially Michele, who repeats and embellishes every tall tale she hears) thrive on.

Such morbid fascination runs especially high for Bia, only heightening the ardor of her makeout sessions with boyfriend Pedro (Vitor Mayer). He, by contrast, is made contrite by the mood of lurid violence; he feels guilt-stricken each time after they suck face, embracing a Christian youth ministry (rather hilariously portrayed in a bombshell leader’s disco-soundtracked exhortations that everybody “kick it for Jesus!!”) that Bia barely tolerates. Their differing paths eventually cause a rift. Meanwhile, Mariana lays siege to crush object Joao, who’s obsessed with a girlfriend who hasn’t returned his calls in weeks — and who is just secretive enough to be a possible slaying suspect. But then, everyone here seems to be getting more temperamentally reckless (and accident- or fight-prone) as the bodies pile up.

Disdaining any conventional murder-mystery satisfactions, “Kill Me Please” ends with a striking image that underlines how its use of serial-killer horror tropes is meant to be taken less literally than metaphorically. The film itself occupies a fever state of mercurial adolescent emotions and curiosities, propelled by the urgent romantic yearnings of dance-pop lyrics, dreamlike narrative ellipses and a sinister sensuality that extends even to the views of mangled corpses. Yet unlike the standard slasher template, there’s no air of misogynist exploitation here. Da Silveira’s view of developing female sexuality eschews any sense of simple, titillating victimhood for a mindset in which girls’ imaginations and actions can be just as aggressive (both erotically and otherwise) as any boys’.

That internal volatility, as well as a generous streak of humor, allows “Kill Me” to get away with a lot of outré tactics, from periodically having the protagonists simply stare at the camera (perhaps standing in for a mirror) to a spontaneous playground dance number. It also sustains the movie beyond its midpoint peak of a princessy classmate’s birthday party at which all macabre, campy and standard teen-flick elements collide in a perfect storm of controlled excess.

Da Silveira demonstrates masterful control over a complicated tonal and aesthetic palette, boasting fine contributions from all her collaborators, with visual and sonic elements equally highly worked.

Film Review: 'Kill Me Please'

Reviewed at SXSW Film Festival (SX Global), March 16, 2016. (Also in Goteborg Film Festival; New Directors/New Films; 2015 Venice Film Festival.) Running time: 104 MIN. (Original title: "Mate-me por favor")

Production: (Brazil) A Bananeira Filmes, Imovision and Telecine presentation of a Bananeira Filmes production, in co-production with REI Cine. (International sales: MPM Film, Paris.) Produced by Vania Catani. Co-producers, Benjamin Domenech, Santigo Gallelli. Executive producers, Vania Catani, Lili Nogueira.

Crew: Directed, written by Anita Rocha da Silveira. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Joao Atala; editor, Marilia Moraes; music, Rodrigo Gorky, Pedro D'Eyrot; production designer, Renato Pimentel; costume designer, Ana Carolina Lopes; art director/set decorator, Dina Salem Levy; sound recordist, Manuel de Andres; re-recording mixer, Gustavo Loureiro; sound designer,/supervising sound editor, Bernardo Uzeda; 1st assistant director, Fernanda Nakamura; casting, Ana Kutner.

With: Valentina Herszage, Dora Freind, Julia Roliz, Mari Oliveira, Bernardo Marinho, Vitor Mayer, Laryssa Ayres, Lorena Compareto, Vicente Conde, Gabriel Lara, Matheus Malafaia, Antara Morri.

More Film

  • Themba Ntuli and Ashley Lazarus

    Ashley Lazarus, Director of Apartheid-Era Cult Classic, Returns to Screen

    DURBAN–Director Ashley Lazarus, whose film about the interracial friendship between two young boys during the apartheid era became a South African cult classic in the 1970s, is set to return to the big screen with a film that builds on his life-long passion for early-childhood education. “Teacher Wanted” is the inspirational story of a teacher [...]

  • Channing Tatum

    Channing Tatum's Free Association Partners With Atwater Capital for Film Development Fund

    Free Association, a production company led by Channing Tatum, Peter Kiernan and Reid Carolin, has entered into a film development fund with Atwater Capital. The four-year $2 million revolving fund stipulates that Atwater will finance a minimum of five films with Free Association. Michael Parets, VP of production, will oversee the deal. Free Association will [...]

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Box Office: Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Takes on 'Lion King'

    Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” will have to take on much more than a changing showbiz landscape. This weekend, the washed-up actor and his majordomo are battling Disney’s juggernaut “The Lion King” at the domestic box office. Tarantino’s R-rated auteur [...]

  • Margot Robbie Once Upon a Time

    Margot Robbie Says 'Barbie' Movie Will Put 'Positivity' Into the World

    Over the last 10 years, Margot Robbie has stepped into the skates of Tonya Harding, taken up the mantle of Harley Quinn and, next up, she’s playing the world’s most famous doll, Barbie. The live-action film is due out in 2020 and set to be written by Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach, while Robbie serves [...]

  • 2018 NALIP Gala

    National Association of Latino Independent Producers Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

    Ben Lopez has seen the future of the entertainment industry, and says it is the Latinx community. “In the next 20 years, we’re going to be prioritized — because not only will we have the numbers demographic-wise, we’ll have the spending power,” says Lopez, the executive director of the National Assn. of Latino Independent Producers, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content