Starring: Emma Roberts, Awkwafina, Danielle Macdonald
Director: Alice Waddington
Running Time: 95 mins
Paradise Hills is a Spanish film about a young woman who awakes in an idyllic training school, but soon discovers that there are dark secrets which underpin its very existence.
A high-concept sci-fi drama with an all-star cast and utterly gorgeous visuals, Paradise Hills is certainly a striking watch at first glance, but there’s an argument to say there’s little more to it than that. Though it does a good job at creating mystery through a dreamlike atmosphere, the film struggles to deliver much emotional depth, proving a rather boring, if not occasionally enjoyably quirky, watch throughout.
In all truth, I wasn’t fully enthralled by Paradise Hills, but it’s at least not a forgettable watch, counting on an interesting concept and impressive visual execution that certainly stick in the memory, while very little about the story does.
Above all, the film’s style is definitely what makes it tick. A brilliant blend of period drama-style costume and futuristic sci-fi design, Paradise Hills more often than not looks like a set made for the front page of a magazine, or even a music video, not much unlike K-12.
Complete with an elegant cast full of A-listers, including the brilliant Emma Roberts, Eiza González, Awkwafina, Danielle Macdonald and Milla Jovovich as the Nurse Ratched of the school, there’s no shortage of talent on screen here, and the film is certainly an absolute delight to look at from star to finish.
However, while it is indeed a bit of a cliché, it’s fair to say that Paradise Hills really does suffer from a case of style over substance. You can certainly make the case that its style is a big part of its substance, and that’s why I still think the film is praiseworthy, but it really struggles to deliver much intrigue beyond its visual prowess.
While there is a good bit of mystery and tension in the early stages that’s bolstered by the film’s unsettling, dreamlike atmosphere, it almost robs you of that ambiguity by the end of the first act, revealing the majority of what’s going on, and where the characters actually are.
That really takes away from the horror of the dark ideas that are floating through your head, and up until the final reveal of what’s actually going on – which comes in the final twenty minutes – there really isn’t much to care about through most of the film.
Again, the visuals are sumptuous enough to keep your attention throughout, but the movie has very little dramatic or emotional intrigue, or even gripping sci-fi mystery, to keep you fully enthralled throughout. And even when all is revealed at the end, it feels like a rather cheap and ham-fisted finale that doesn’t follow the direction the story was following.
Overall, Paradise Hills is a real mixed bag of a film. Visually, it’s as splendid as can be, with gorgeous production and costume design across the board, alongside eerie, dreamlike atmosphere and a collection of brilliant A-listers in the lead roles. Narratively, however, the film is a real mess, lacking the tension and mystery throughout to deliver on its high-concept premise, and proving a largely dull, albeit not forgettable watch. So, that’s why I’m giving it a 6.8.