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SXSW 2023-My Drywall Cocoon Review- Soapy, Teen Heartbreaker Is Gorgeous And Addictive

Premiering at SXSW 2023, My Drywall Cocoon is a slick mystery that takes a page from teen series like 13 Reasons Why and Elite. It is a visually stunning film with all the slickness of a dreamy psychological thriller but with the sensibility of a teen drama. The film is stylish, heartbreaking, and desperate in that way that only your teen years feel. It is also a well-made and edited movie that keeps your interest while it stuns with gorgeous visuals.

A glittering Brazilian highrise houses the wealthy and connected in Sao Paulo. Almost everyone is white, powerful, privileged, and clueless about all the terrible things happening all around them. But, unfortunately, nothing is as perfect as it seems. Cracks appear almost immediately in Caroline Fioratti’s My Drywall Cocoon. When a seventeen-year-old girl, Virginia(Bella Piero), is found dead after her birthday party, it rocks her friends and families. Told in two timelines, we see how each of those in Virginia’s life cope with her death, and we watch the events that led to it unfold.

It isn’t until the final moments that we learn what happened to Virginia. Red herrings throughout with, guns that change hands several times, and party drugs are only distractions from the real problem. Those in Virginia’s circle are all deeply unhappy. The usual teen characters are represented in a closeted gay teen, a bullied loner on the verge of becoming a terrorist, a marginalized and neglected stunning black girl, and a profoundly depressed kid who feels trapped and hopeless to the point of shocking self-mutilation.

The choice to watch Virginia’s demise play out instead of being revealed at the beginning largely drives the film. We become invested even as we watch, horrified with dread. All the adults in the movie are ignorant of what is happening. Worse yet, some hide violence behind a facade of professional respectability. Despite Virginia’s mother’s (Maria Louisa Mendonca) grief being a primary focus, it is the quartet of teens that ground the film. This ensemble carries My Drywall Cocoon on their slender shoulders with relatable pain and lived-in frustration.

Michel Joelsas as Nicollas and Daniel Botelho as Gabriel are two sides of the same coin. Nicollas hides who he is and what he goes through at home. He is popular and handsome, seemingly living the ideal life. On the other hand, Gabriel is pushed around, ignored, or abused. Both boys leave you choked up and raw as they navigate one terrible night and the endless day following it. They each worry about their role in Virginia’s death; one is eaten alive by his guilt.

Standout Mari Oliveira(Luana) is the lone black girl living at the elite condominium complex. She is beautiful but lonely. Her mother is mentally ill, and Luana spends her free time being forced to parent her parent. Her looks bring her a lot of attention but are also a source of shame. She craves attention while simultaneously hating it. Many people, including the other teens’ fathers who follow her on social media, see her as a commodity, not a person. It’s not by accident that this bastion of Brazilian entitlement contains mostly white-skinned Brazilians. That is part of the message about the divide between the haves and the have-nots in Brazil or really any place around the world.

Fioratti’s film is like watching a hazy dream that turns into a nightmare of hidden truths and frantic hopes. Everything has the heightened emotion of that time in our lives. Music, lighting, and camera tricks work together to highlight the sentiments of the moment. It feels very much like teen spirit.

A particularly arresting scene halfway through the film is gorgeous to look at and feels exactly the way young people think sex does. It is steamy and hallucinogenic and sexy in that Euphoric angsty kind of way. In fact, everything about My Drywall Cocoon feels very Netflix teen drama. This isn’t a complaint as those sudsy guilty pleasures are wildly popular and entertaining.

Another lovely set of dream-like sequences featuring Virginia and her mother impart all the pain and guilt a parent would feel after losing a child. You want so badly to take their place and put yourself in their shoes to know what happened and understand why. It’s a cruel lesson that life isn’t fair and can be snuffed out in an instant.

My Drywall Cocoon is a bitter reminder of that dark second when our lives seemed so impossible. The dangers are real, but so many times, they come from within. The pressure to find ourselves, be accepted, and hope for a happier future can derail us and make us lose focus on what matters most. Ultimately Virginia’s pain was so profound she could not contain it. Psychological wounds were bubbling up and becoming evident all over her body. She lay dying while the party continued around her. It’s devastating, especially knowing that all those kids will have to live with what happened.

It goes to show money can’t buy you happiness. It may provide privilege and opportunity but not comfort or security from the things that hurt us most. My Drywall Cocoon perfectly captures that tumultuous moment in time when everything and nothing seems possible at the same time. It is premiering at SXSW 2023 on March 11th.