Paradise Hills (film)
|Directed by||Alice Waddington|
|Story by||Alice Waddington|
|Music by||Lucas Vidal|
|Edited by||Guillermo de la Cal|
|Distributed by||Alfa Pictures|
Paradise Hills is a 2019 Spanish science fantasy thriller film directed by Alice Waddington in her feature directorial debut. It stars Emma Roberts as Uma, a young woman sent to Paradise, a mysterious behavioural modification centre for women who have displeased their families, alongside Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina, Jeremy Irvine, Arnaud Valois, Eiza González, and Milla Jovovich.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 26 January 2019. It was released in Spain on 11 October 2019 by Alfa Pictures and in the United States on 25 October 2019 by Samuel Goldwyn Films.
At her wedding, Uma is toasted by her guests who compliment her new attitude. Later, she is pinned to a bed by her husband, Son, who says she is much more obedient than she used to be.
Two months earlier, Uma awakens in a strange room and realises she is trapped on an island called Paradise. She runs away from her captors, but is caught and returned by Amarna. It is explained to Uma that she has been sent to a sort of treatment centre for rebellious young women, in Uma's case because she has rejected a marriage proposal her mother wants her to accept. Uma becomes friends with her roommates Chloe and Yu, as well as befriending Amarna, who is a well-known singer whose management team want to keep her in line.
As Uma adjusts to life on the island, her boyfriend from the mainland, Markus, crashes the island pretending to be an orderly and promising he can rescue her. A jealous Amarna tells Uma to be careful and reveals that she has her own secret plan to escape as her fans have smuggled her a rowboat she and Uma can use to leave. Before they can put their plan into action, Amarna is told she has graduated early. She tells Uma to rescue herself and Markus. Before she leaves, Amarna also reveals that the girls are being drugged so they sleep through the night.
After a treatment during which Uma is forced to watch old news reports of her father's suicide, Uma reacts badly and is drugged. She awakens two weeks later. The Duchess, who runs the Paradise program, informs Uma that she will be returned home the next day. Deeply suspicious, Uma decides to leave and convinces Chloe and Yu to run away with her in the night. Before they can escape, Yu is taken away by orderlies in the night for a final treatment. When Uma and Chloe try to rescue her, the doctors operating on Yu attempt to kill them.
Uma, Chloe and a badly injured Yu manage to escape. They stumble into a control room where they learn that their therapy has not been to rehabilitate them, but to replicate them. Uma learns that Markus never intended to rescue her, but was used to determine her behaviour in sexual situations. As Uma and her friends run from the guards, they stumble into a room where they meet their replicants; women from poor social circumstances who have undergone extensive surgeries and studied in order to act as more obedient versions of the women they are replacing. Yu dies and Chloe and Uma are forced to move on without her, but before they go, Uma leaves behind her memory locket of her father for her replacement and tells her that in order to fully embody Uma, she must hate Son, the man responsible for her father's death.
Uma and Chloe make their way into a garden where they see the lifeless bodies of former Paradise girls ensnarled in the leaves, including Amarna. Uma sees the Duchess feeding on Chloe's body and is wrapped up in vines as the Duchess prepares to make her her next victim. However, Uma's replicant saves her by pretending to be the real Uma, distracting the Duchess enough so that Uma can stab her with a scalpel. Uma and her replicant, Ana, manage to escape in the rowboat. Ana reveals she cannot return to her former life and so she and Uma develop a plan. Ana returns to Uma's wealthy family pretending to be Uma, and marries Son. On their wedding night, she remains downstairs while Uma herself goes to Son and seduces him, stabbing him before they can have sex. Ana is thus free from blame as she was downstairs among many witnesses when the murder occurred. Ana "discovers" Son's body and screams for help, now free to live her life as a wealthy widow. Uma, having secured her revenge, flees into the night.
- Emma Roberts as Uma
- Danielle Macdonald as Chloe
- Awkwafina as Yu
- Eiza González as Amarna
- Milla Jovovich as The Duchess
- Jeremy Irvine as Markus
- Arnaud Valois as Son
In November 2017, Emma Roberts and Danielle Macdonald joined the cast of the film, with Alice Waddington directing from a screenplay by Nacho Vigalondo and Brian DeLeeuw, with Adrián Guerra and Núria Valls producing under their Nostromo Pictures banner. In March 2018, Eiza González joined the cast of the film. In April 2018, Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Irvine, and Awkwafina joined the cast of the film.
Principal photography began in April 2018. Filming took place in the Spanish municipality of Gáldar, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands. Two locations near Barcelona were also used: La Fábrica, a former cement factory repurposed as headquarters by Ricardo Bofill Taller de Arquitectura in Sant Just Desvern, and the nearby palatial house complex of Xavier Corberó in Esplugues de Llobregat.
Paradise Hills had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on 26 January 2019. Shortly after, Samuel Goldwyn Films acquired distribution rights to the film. It was released in Spain on 11 October 2019, by Alfa Pictures. In the United States, it was released on 25 October 2019, followed by video on demand on 1 November 2019.
It holds a 64% rating and an average score of 6.4/10 on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 59 reviews. The site's consensus reads: "Its ambitious reach occasionally exceeds its grasp, but Paradise Hills offers fans of thoughtful sci-fi a visually distinctive treat with timely themes". Leslie Felperin of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Words can't do justice to the truly lavish sets and costumes on display here which are so dazzling, intricate and bizarre they serve as a useful distraction." Louisa Moore, writing for Screen Zealots, similarly stated, "Sometimes a film [...] is so well made and has something so interesting to say that it would be a crime not to applaud the effort.". Carlos Aguilar of The Wrap wrote, "Challenging the narrative frameworks, the film turns obsolete archetypes into individuals with agency. [...] Princesses don't need a knight to escape their prisons; they can blow them up themselves"
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