Emilia Pérez review: "A miraculous movie that reframes the musical in fascinating and surprising ways"

Emilia Perez (2024)
(Image: © Pathe)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A film where everyone brings their A-game, this reframes the musical in fascinating and continually surprising ways.

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Emilia Pérez had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. Here's our review...

French director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone) leaves his comfort zone far behind with his new film. A fully engaging two-hour musical set in Mexico City, complete with dance numbers and a storyline that ranges from gender reassignment to cartel violence, it’s as daring as they come. With a wonderful cast led by Zoe Saldaña, Selena Gomez, and the terrific Spanish actor Karla Sofía Gascón, it’s a film that wows in multiple ways. 

The plot gets truly underway as Rita (Saldaña), a dedicated counsellor at law, is summoned by a mysterious voice on the phone. No sooner does she arrive at a newsstand than she is press-ganged into a vehicle, where she meets drug lord Manitas Del Monte (Gascón). 

Two years earlier, he began hormone treatment and wants Rita to find him a surgeon to complete his journey to live “the life nature wouldn’t give me”. Completing his transition, Del Monte becomes Emilia Pérez and starts life over. Even wife Jessi (Gomez) is made to think her husband has been killed. 

With stellar songs by French singer Camille, a highly original score by Clément Ducol, and striking choreography by Damien Jalet, Emilia Pérez shifts effortlessly from musical extravagances to a gritty underworld milieu. 

The latter comes to the fore when the story moves on several years, finding Pérez keen to start a campaign to locate those who have “disappeared” in Mexico’s shady crime-riddled system. Saldaña and Gomez deliver forceful performances (both in Spanish), but even they are outflanked by Gascón. A miraculous movie.

Emilia Pérez's release date is currently TBC.

Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.