Violation (2021) Lives Up to Its Name
First Wide Release: March 25, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Dusty Mancinelli, Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Writer: Dusty Mancinelli, Madeleine Sims-Fewer
Runtime: 107 Minutes
Starring: Madeleine Sims-Fewer, Anna Maguire, Jesse LaVercombe
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Told in fragments over the course of several years, Violation tells the story of Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) after a horrible event. We learn that the events begin with a weekend trip to visit her sister, Greta (Anna Maguire), and her husband, Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). Miriam is in good spirits even if her relationship with her husband, Caleb (Obi Abili) is clearly disintegrating. In addition to this weekend, we are drawn forward to a few months after the weekend and sometime long after that as well, where Miriam finally faces Greta and Dylan again after their betrayals.
Violation is an uncomfortable and uncompromising vision of brutality, justice, and forgiveness.
Told in fragments of the beginning and end of Miriam’s revenge after she is assaulted by her sister’s husband, Violation is a raw exploration of the trauma that results from sexual assault and rape. The prologue paints a rosy story of two couples enjoying a weekend together by the lake, but one couple, Miriam and Caleb, are going through a rough patch. Eventually Miriam and Dylan are alone by the fire, Miriam confesses some feelings of inadequacy and talks through some of her issues.
Eventually she kisses Dylan. The next morning, she wakes up to him assaulting her. Her reaction, while clear to her and the fact that she is incapacitated when the assault began, confuses Dylan when she confronts him the next day. He amounts what happened to a mistake because he is married, not that he assaulted her. She tells her sister, who doesn’t believe her, which causes a rift. Later, Miriam returns to get revenge on Dylan and see if she can repair things with Greta.
It’s clear that with Violation, directors Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer intend to tell a nuanced story about how rape effects the person being assaulted. Sims-Fewer gives a raw and visceral performance as Miriam. She taps into all the complicated emotions of coming to terms with her trauma and it is incredible to see that realized on screen without being sensationalized. I appreciate the focus on the perspective of the survivor rather than the titillation of the viewer. It seeps into all aspects of film, even beyond the assault.
When Miriam is enacting her revenge, it isn’t highlighted by ultra-satisfying grandiose kill sequence with a clever one-liner and a shot of her walking away. It’s brutal and unforgiving, and even hard for Miriam to muster the energy to continue. There’s a really great comparison between Greta skinning a rabbit and Miriam killing her abuser; it’s hard, you almost want to vomit, then remember that you have to do it for yourself, and carry on. Rape is messy and grief is complicated. Violation centers the process of handling this grief.
LaVercombe delivers an exceptionally nuanced performance as well. Dylan comes across as a likable guy until you realize what he did. His dialogue, mannerisms, and overall writing is so well-done. It hits the exact mark it needs to hit to engender outrage but also stay in reality. Violation would not have been as effective without his performance.
Despite being beautifully shot, well-acted, and overall a solid production, it still falls short for me. Along with the material itself, the time jumps really throws me through a loop that makes the film difficult to watch and keep track of when things are happening. When the first jump happens, I thought I had missed a pivotal scene until I realized that the film is fragmented and told in pieces. Other films take this risk, and it makes it more interesting. For Violation it just gets muddled and the impact blunted. Besides this main issue, it does drag a bit and lingers more in the somber and uncomfortable than I would like to sit in for long periods of time. It’s also a film about rape, so I expect that.
It is clear that Violation is not a film for everyone, nor does it try to be. I think it is a good film, however, it is one that I have no intentions of ever revisiting. I know I personally did not enjoy my experience watching it, but I do think it delivers in terms of social commentary and its cast’s wonderful performances. While I don’t think that the film gets too graphic, I urge viewers to think before they watch, as it is a very upsetting film. Violation lives up to its name.
Overall Score? 6/10