Chilean writer/director/producer Pablo Larraín throws down the gauntlet and dares you to care. Never short of powerful statements, Ema could be one of his most challenging experiences to date. Not so much from the overabundance of violence or sex but because of the difficulty of getting inside the head of lead character Ema (Mariana Di Girólamo).
Ema is young, irresponsible, erratic, and loves to set things on fire. Her life is filled with distraction and disfunction while she tries hard to fill a gap left by the abandonment of the young adopted boy Polo (Cristián Suárez) by her and husband Gastón (Gael García Bernal). She is a dancer by trade and Gastón a choreographer.
Through a convoluted plot device, Ema comes in contact with the couple that adopted Polo and ensnares both of them in her hedonistic lifestyle. The ease in which she accomplishes this defies normal logic but as things progress you learn they too are damaged and looking for things not found in their marriage.
The main obstacle you must overcome to find enjoyment in watching Ema is trying to relate to someone that you have so little in common with. Her narcissistic behaviour is very off-putting and as things progress you find little in the way of understanding as to how she came to be so self-centered. Thinking that Larraín is there as your tour guide might be a misstep as you are left to find your own feelings.