Emma Watson's new film Colonia premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it's clear to me after seeing it this morning that Watson is still waiting for her great post-Potter role. Watson plays Lena, a flight attendant in 1973 whose boyfriend, Daniel (Daniel Brühl), is protesting on behalf of Chile's then president, Salvador Allende. At the outset of the movie, everything is lovey dovey between the two — they snuggle and take sexy photos of each other — but then Augusto Pinochet stages his coup, and Daniel is taken by Pinochet's forces to the Colonia Dignidad center to be tortured. Lena decides that instead of giving up on Daniel she’s going to join Pinochet's cult herself. Naturally, she doesn't whisk him away immediately, and is subjected to the group's brutality.
The problem with the film is its lack of details. We barely learn anything about Lena and Daniel. Sure, they are in love, but why do they have such a strong connection? Why is she willing to risk everything for him? He is political, but we don't really know where his ideals come from. Despite it being a historical film I felt like I could have been watching really any people-escape-cult thriller, rather than one rooted in a true story about a despicable place. By the time it finished and the true facts about Colonia Dignidad flash on the screen, I wished I had come away from the film having learned more. Reception at TIFF has not been kind: The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, eviscerated the film in its review. The movie came into the festival without U.S. distribution, so it's unclear when audiences will get to see it. For now, see the trailer below, which does a better job at creating suspense than the movie does.