Desperate to fulfill his terminally ill daughter’s last wish, a grief-stricken man plunges into a vortex of blackmail, deception and double-cross, in this deliriously stylized noir thriller.

One of the breakout hits of Spain’s burgeoning low-budget filmmaking scene, Carlos Vermut’s debut, Diamond Flash, instantly established the young filmmaker as a deft practitioner of the thriller genre. Vermut’s follow-up, Magical Girl, employs a classic noir premise, taking his exploration of the darkest side of human nature to exhilarating new extremes.

Luis (Luis Bermejo) is desperate to fulfill his terminally ill daughter’s last wish: to own the prohibitively expensive “Magical Girl Yukiko” dress from her favourite Japanese cartoon. Unemployed, with no prospects, and blinded with grief, Luis turns to extortion when he crosses paths with the beautiful, mentally disturbed Bárbara.

While Magical Girl displays ample influence from the best of Spanish cinema past and present, from Luis Buñuel to Alejandro Amenábar, it also draws inspiration from the hyper-stylisation of Japanese manga and the boundary pushing of South Korean genre cinema. Ultimately, however, Vermut’s film is a thoroughly original creation, its vicious dance of vengeance and deceit offering a twisted reflection of Spain’s fraught contemporary reality.  TIFF.