Cinema Review: Violation [SXSW 2021] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Violation [SXSW 2021]

Studio: Shudder
Directed by Madeleine Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli

Mar 18, 2021 Web Exclusive
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Violation is an unflinching and disturbing thriller about assault, trauma, and revenge. This is the first feature for actor/director Madeleine Sims-Fewer and frequent collaborator, Dusty Mancinelli, who have worked together on numerous short films.

Violation starts off as a simple relationship drama. Fearing that her relationship with her husband Caleb (Obi Abili) is heading towards separation, Miriam (Sims-Fewer) decides to travel with him to her sister Greta’s (Anna Maguire) and her sister’s husband Dylan’s (Jesse LaVercombe) secluded lakeside home. Surrounded by a beautiful lake and forest, the house seems like the perfect retreat.

Scenes of Miriam’s and Caleb’s crumbling relationship are juxtaposed against scenes of Greta’s and Dylan’s affection. Miriam confides in Dylan for guidance and advice about what to do about her relationship. One night, after Greta and Caleb have gone to bed, Miriam and Dylan are stargazing in silence when the film abruptly cuts to the future with an unexpected and shocking scene that will leave viewers confused and horrified. As these flash forwards unfold, it becomes clear that a sexual assault has occurred.

Instead of taking a linear approach to storytelling, Violation moves back-and-forth between the immediate aftermath of the sexual assault and the actions that Miriam takes far into the future. This is an interesting creative choice and succeeds by keeping viewers tuned into what’s happening in order to figure out how the two timelines bridge together. Additionally, this makes Violation both a layered character study and a puzzle to piece together as more and more is revealed.

This approach does bring up some issues. It can be hard to follow the film at times, which can prove to be tiring. Certain scenes from both timelines often cloud one another, and this constant sense of déjà vu can make it difficult for viewers to take away everything the film is communicating. By revealing its twist early on in the film, Violation does begin to feel more and more unfocused as the film moves on.

Violation showcases many filmmaking techniques that even veteran filmmakers have difficulties harnessing. The film is stylistically striking from start to finish. It is filled with trippy, horrifying visuals that tie the film’s two timelines together while continuously keeping viewers unsettled. Moreover, Violation is able to explore the complex themes that surround sexual assault and power abuse in a unique way that sticks with viewers long after it’s over.

The performances are key in selling the film’s intense and unforgettable story. The four actors in the main ensemble carry the weight of the storytelling in both timelines in an effective and believable way. Sims-Fewer’s performance as Miriam, in particular, is incredible. She portrays Miriam’s differing emotions in a way that is always convincing, and truly shows how repressed trauma can manifest in all kinds of ways, both directly and indirectly.

An unforgettable story, nuanced performances and excellent direction truly make Violation an impactful watch, and a promising debut for its two directors.

Author rating: 6/10

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March 18th 2021

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March 18th 2021
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