Bloody Marie opens with the titular Marie (Susanne Wolfe) at what should be rock bottom. Directors/writers Lennert Hillege and Guido van Driel take us through a day in Marie’s life. She dances alone at a club in the morning before getting into a heated argument with the other barflies. After, she goes to a tennis court and enthusiastically pantomimes the players actions between swigs from a bottle. She briefly stops by her apartment to find that despite being a successful graphic novelist, she can’t break through her block and draw. She goes down to the liquor store and the owner refuses to sell to her, saying, “You should probably stop drinking.” The sequence ends with her stalking her neighbor, Dragomir (Dragos Bucur) through the alley leading to his apartment. She calls out to him, and offers to pay him for a sip of the bottle he’s holding. He agrees, but he doesn’t want money. Instead, he trades for her shoes.
Things shouldn’t be able to get worse, but for Marie, they do. The next night, she sees her shoes on Dragomir’s roof. Though, as she later puts it, she’s “Drunk as a skunk,” she lays a ladder between their roofs and attempts to climb over. The film spirals from there, intertwining her world with Dragomir’s.
While Dragomir seems nice when they first meet, he’s abusive toward the group of sex workers he oversees for a violent organization. Dragos Bucur plays the role with a great vulnerability, which separates it from the Eastern-European monster trope that typically gets slotted into this role in films like Taken. Dragomir seems to actually care for his workers, bringing Iliana (Alexia Lestiboudois) to Marie to see if Marie can find a publisher for Iliana’s art. It’s a small step he’s taking to make her life better, but it separates the film from the cartoonishly bleak life of other fictional sex workers.
As good as Bucur is, everything in Bloody Marie takes a backseat to Susanna Wolfe’s electric performance. Wolfe brings a manic energy to everything she does while Marie is drunk that feels authentic. More importantly, her performance is absolutely captivating. Wolfe plays an entire emotional register, mixing in Marie’s grief over her mother’s death into every decision while also capturing the character’s frenzied approach to life.
Hillege and van Driel show flashes of Marie’s inner-life by including shots of her artwork. All of it is gorgeous, and images like her dog Lieze on top of a coffin in a field give viewers a glimpse into what Marie’s processing.
Lieze plays a huge role in the film. He follows Marie everywhere around an extremely dog-friendly Amsterdam. Like most movie dogs, he is incredibly well behaved, almost never leaving Marie’s heel and not barking once. In contrast, my real dog barked at the empty McDonald’s bag that blew by the window during the movie until it was long out of sight before alerting me each time a doorbell rang in the film.
Lieze, despite his supernaturally good behavior, offers us an insight into Bloody Marie’s theme.The previously mentioned argument at the bar in the opening of the film starts when Marie takes umbrage with two men talking about how, “Nature knows no morality.” She fires back that there’s a tenderness to the natural world. She challenges them, and by extension viewers, asking, “Why do you have to prove your masculinity?”
That question of whether the world is amoral or tender echoes through Bloody Marie. It’s what Bucur brings into his performance as Dragomir and Wolfe into Marie. It’s on the page each time the camera passes over Marie’s artwork. And it’s in Lieze’s—the film’s representation of nature—behavior.
Bloody Marie should be heartbreaking—the story of a woman sick with alcoholism, grieving the loss of her mother—but it’s more fun than it has any right to be.
Wicked Rating – 8.5/10
Directors: Lennert Hillege, Guido van Driel
Writers: Lennert Hillege, Guido van Driel
Stars: Susanne Wolff, Dragos Bucur, Alexia Lestiboudois
Release: November 1, 2019 (theaters), November 11, 2019 (VOD)
Studio/Production Company: Family Affair Films, Bulletproof Cupid, Vrijzinnig Protestantse Radio Omroep
Language: Dutch, English
Length: 87 minutes