Olivia (2011) – By Philip Smolen

“Olivia” is an independent film from writer/director Edgar Muňiz. It tells the story of a young college-aged woman (Larina Sias) who says goodbye to her boyfriend as he leaves for a trip. Before he goes, he gives Olivia a cassette tape to play. When she plays it, she’s astonished to hear an original song from him telling her that he’s breaking up with her! The news plunges Olivia into emotional turmoil, but she attempts to get on with her life. However, her insecurities and desires pull her in two different directions. Despite her best efforts, she faces the roar of silence generated by her thoughts. Olivia thinks she can change and become someone who she’s not. She picks up a stranger and brings him back to her apartment for some casual sex. But the experience leaves her cold, confused, and bitter. She continually rejects Roo (Edgar Muňiz), the one boy who truly seems to care for her. Will Olivia ever be able to recognize what’s holding her back and break out and become the person she wants to be?

“Olivia” is a poignant, introspective film. Director Muňiz shows us a young woman who wants to change, but fails to see that her past experiences have rendered her emotionally hollow. Throughout the movie, Olivia is shown walking with large headphones on her head, effectively shutting the world out. She has an empty job at a clothing store which also reflects her empty life. She’s made few emotional connections, even with her family. When she goes to visit her father (Wayne Hurley), Olivia doesn’t even go into his house. Instead, they both sit in her car, talking about nothing. She tells her feelings to Roo, tormenting him with stories of her sex life, yet she won’t even consider him as a potential lover. When Olivia talks with her sister, she doesn’t share the laughs that most siblings enjoy, and instead tells her “Life is kind of something you have to endure every day.” Nevertheless, the film ends with hope as Olivia attempts to reconnect with one of her childhood passions.

Muňiz effectively captures Olivia’s vacant, wounded world. Even his photography enhances the emptiness in her soul. Larina Sias is a true find as Olivia. She successfully exposes the maze this beautiful young woman has built in her mind, and every so often allows the viewer in so that they can also see her innermost turmoil. The only concern I have with “Olivia” is that it could probably be a few minutes shorter.

If you like quiet and reflective movies, give this one a chance. It’s far better than the overblown, overwrought major studio efforts that try to deal with the same subject. “Olivia” is honest, and it has charm. But far more importantly, it also has a soul.

For more info on “Olivia” please go to: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2066028

For more information on Edgar Muňiz please go to: http://vimeo.com/somuchmovies