The Movie Waffler SXSW 2023 Review - MY DRYWALL COCOON | The Movie Waffler


A party in a gated community results in a teenager's death.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Caroline Fioratti

Starring: Bella Piero, Maria Luisa Mendonça, Michel Joelsas, Mari Oliveira, Daniel Botelho

My Drywall Cocoon poster

A few years back the idea of a TV series that would serve as a prequel to The Shining was mooted. The online reaction was overwhelmingly negative, but despite my aversion to projects rooted in nostalgia, I actually thought this could have been a winner. With the right ensemble cast and a talented team of writers, sticking a bunch of offbeat characters into the Overlook could have done for hotels what Twin Peaks did for small towns. I've always been a sucker for movies set in hotels and apartment blocks that act as microcosms of wider society – think David Cronenberg's Shivers, Paul Bartel's Private Parts, Tobe Hooper's remake of The Toolbox Murders, Lamberto Bava's Demons 2, right up to the recent German sci-fi parable We Might As Well Be Dead. It's a formula that produces such great results that it's remarkable how Ben Wheatley managed to screw it up with his adaptation of JG Ballard's High Rise.

In Brazil, high rise living is par for the course for the wealthy elites of the country's sprawling metropolises. Writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho has used such settings to explore his country's social divide in both Neighboring Sounds and Aquarius, and now his compatriot Caroline Fioratti does something similar with her third feature, My Drywall Cocoon.

My Drywall Cocoon review

Sao Paulo is the setting for this dark drama, specifically a gated community of high rise buildings that house almost exclusively white and wealthy residents. Giant apartment blocks as gleaming white as a movie star's fake smile encircle an outdoor swimming pool and lounging area, giving the place the look of a 1970s sci-fi movie. It's all a little too clean, a little too unsoiled, a little too perfect. Of course, there's a rot within the walls, and it seems despite their wealth, comfort and security, none of the residents are particularly content.

A diagnosis of the human condition within this milieu is set in motion by the death of Virginia (Bella Piero), who passes away during her 17th birthday party, having convinced her mother, Patricia (Maria Luisa Mendonca) to leave the party without adult supervision. The movie subsequently splits along two timelines, detailing the events leading up to Virginia's death during the party and following various characters as they spend the following day processing what just happened, and whether they might in some way be responsible.

My Drywall Cocoon review

Patricia spends most of her time drinking herself into a stupor and understandably bawling her eyes out over her loss. Virginia's boyfriend Nicollas (Michel Joelsas) carries on with his life as though nothing happened while her best friend Luana (Mari Oliveira) attempts to break through his steely wall of emotional silence. Meanwhile another teenage boy, Gabriel (Daniel Botelho), books a bus ride to a far off city, believing himself guilty of Virginia's death.

The circumstances of the young woman's demise are teased out over the course of the narrative. Fioratti presents us with various clues and macguffins in the form of a gun that passes through the hands of various characters and a bottle of amphetamines. The actual cause of death is kept from us until a final act reveal. This keeps us invested to a degree, as though the movie were a cinematic page-turner, and it helps that the young cast is so strongly assembled. They may be playing teenage archetypes that we've seen in dozens of movies and TV shows – the closeted homosexual, the troubled loner, the pretty but depressed girl – but the central quartet of young stars do a fine job of imbuing them with distinct personalities.

My Drywall Cocoon review

Fioratti has a background in directing Netflix teen shows, so it's no surprise that My Drywall Cocoon has the look and feel of the various teen shows that have become popular on that streaming service – think 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, Class etc, with their ensembles of moody teens with sculpted cheekbones. You could easily imagine this story getting dragged out over 10 episodes and left unresolved for a second season. As such, its soapier aspects may not have enough meat for mature viewers, but I imagine a teen audience will lap this up, particularly given how focussed Fioratti is on the teen mindset rather than any scornful adult perspective. Rather than making parents fearful of the generation they're currently raising, it aims to make you remember how dark a time your own teen years might have been.

My Drywall Cocoon
 plays at the SXSW Film Festival from March 11th.

2023 movie reviews