The Cambodia’s K11 red light district might sound to some like a good time. The fact is that the K11 district is home to such horrific acts such as child slavery & prostitution. It’s sleazy, filthy and about as immoral as you could imagine. Guy Moshe decided to tackle this subject when he directed the 2006 movie: Holly. Guy had to make sure that he brought the harsh reality to screen in a proper fashion. In doing so, he made quite possibly the most uncomfortable film this reviewer has seen in a long time.
Patrick (played by Ron Livingston) lives in Cambodia playing cards and getting rid of stolen goods for his pal Freddy (played by Chris Penn). He’s become immune to the effects of the world in chaos around him. Crime is rampant and the Cambodian world is oozing with underage women who are sold in slavery. Then they are forced to work in brothels catering to everybody from locals to the government to travelers who come to the area just for the immoral delights.
One of these under-aged women sold into sexual slavery is named Holly (played by Thuy Nguyen). Her Vietnamese family sold her into slavery because they needed the money. She ends up at a small brothel where she tries to escape on a frequent basis. She is a virgin, which is a premium in places like this as Holly tries to keep her virginity and her sanity at peace.
One night, Patrick is forced to stay at the brothel as the local mechanic works on his bike. He meets Holly and they develop a friendship. He keeps her fed and she provides companionship as they bond in what can be best described as an uncle/niece relationship. As a result, Patrick stays for a little while longer even when the bike is fixed. He takes her riding and then they come back to stay the night at the brothel. Holly tells Patrick that she wants him to buy her so they can live together. However, Patrick decides to leave in the thick of the night because they have grown too close and he’s not ready to accept the responsibility.
The next day, Holly is sold to another brothel since she is too much trouble. However, she escapes into a mine-field where she must navigate the immediate dangers and push her life into a new and positive direction. Shortly after, Patrick realizes he made a mistake and goes back to the brothel only to find Holly gone. After grabbing a picture of the girl, he sets out on a quest to find her. From that moment on, we spend the rest of the film with Patrick trying to find Holly in an attempt to rescue her from the cold harsh reality known as the Cambodia K11 district.
The acting in the movie is excellent. Ron Livingstone and Thuy Nguyen develop an easy to see bond, something that seems stronger than most family relationships. They also never delve into anything immoral despite the conditions around them. The supporting actors are okay for the most part with the best performance probably by Udo Kier who plays Claus in what can only be described as a very chilling performance.
Speaking of which: Holly, the movie is uncomfortable. It’s made that way on purpose. It’s not graphic as they don’t show anything but they do an amazing job of hinting every unspeakable thing you could think of. Furthermore, as a warning the ending is not a happy one. It’s actually about the worst ending one could think of and leaves a few things in the air. But unfortunately, I guess this tale could not have a happy ending. Everybody in the audience wants it to, but you are left with a terrible feeling of dread.
The movie is shot in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film’s look is gritty but at the same time there is a polish to the proceedings. The transfer looks great most of the time with only spots here and there of less than quality. The countryside typically looks great for when they show it and they did a good job with it.
The audio is in 5.1 Dolby Digital English. The movie does resonate in the middle speaker most of the time. There are hardly any surround effects but there isn’t much reason for them to. Dialog is clear, my only problem here was subtitles. Quite often, they would be talking in their native tongue but the subs weren’t synced as they should be. Therefore, some of it was lost. Subtitles were also provided in Spanish, an odd but welcome for some choice.
- Automatic Trailers: Kiss of the Spider Woman, Gardens of the Night, & The Matador.
- Behind the K11 Project 8:01: This looks at child slavery around the world and plenty of harsh footage from some terrible looking locales. There are some actor interviews as well as spending some time with those trying to make the documentary.
- Anti-Trafficking Heroes Award 5:03: On August 5th, 2008: Adi Erzoni & Guy Jacobson were given the Anti-Trafficking Heroes award by the United States for their efforts to bring awareness to this issue. It’s a promotional piece but a very worthy award.
- Excerpt from “Children for Sale” Documentary 5:54: This is a clip from the “Children for Sale” Documentary. It also looks into the reality of child trafficking in Southeast Asia. It actually has people who have been taken advantage of and their stories. No corners cut here, more hard to swallow footage.
Holly was a difficult movie for me. I found myself extremely angry at the movie and could not write the review for a few days. Truth is I will never be able to watch this movie again but the movie will be with me forever. In the same breath, I realize that was the director’s intent. To make the viewer pause and do something to help. If you feel that this noble effort is a good cause, buy the dvd or give some money to the project. Just be warned, this movie is not for everyone. Actually, very few people will be able to watch it. It’s a harsh reality that few of us want to accept. But it is a situation that no matter how uncomfortable it makes us; deserved a film to state its claim. Enjoy, if you can.