Review: Malta (SXSW 2024)


Title: Malta
MPA Rating: NR
Director: Natalia Santas
Starring: Estefanía Piñeres, Patricia Tamayo, Emmanuel Restrepo
Runtime: 1 hr 37 mins

What It Is: Mariana (Piñeres) is a young woman driven by the aspiration to leave her town of Bogotá in Columbia and find a better, more exciting life elsewhere. Meanwhile, she works at a call center regarding customer service, deals with the complicated ins and outs of her family, learns how to speak German, and parties, often expressing herself and means of connecting sexually. When she begins to experience a uniquely intimate connection with a young man, Mariana is confronted with making a choice and must navigate how to move forward.

What We Think: Looking at this film as a 20s-something woman myself, I certainly can resonate with the protagonist and her bubbling-under-the-surface angst as she tries to explore and expand herself outside of the life that she’s been given. It’s a very cut-and-dry take–you know who the character is and what she wants right off that bat, but in that there is also a sort of backfiring in which as a film, more could be happening. I think as a narrative film, I’d like to demand more as my interest in the character grows with her as we see her experience more, bit by bit. Perhaps the pacing is a bit slow for me, story items few-and-far and quiet, but there the moments that do happen in the film are portrayed with a lot of care and tenderness. I think I do just wish there was more attributes, perhaps more style or music, overall mise en scene to punctuate these moments. Nonetheless, the acting is natural and poignant, fronted by Piñeres’s captivating performance, shining brightest through moments of chemistry, intimacy, and connection.

Our Grade: C+, An understated story about dreams, everyday life, sexuality, and being a woman trying to shape her adulthood, Malta promises and delivers exactly what one can expect from such a story. Though it does lag and is predictable, the small moments between characters can leave an emotional impression.

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