Truth and Movies

Violation

Review by Leila Latif @Leila_Latif

Directed by

Dusty Mancinelli Madeleine Sims-Fewer

Starring

Anna Maguire Jesse LaVercombe Madeleine Sims-Fewer

Anticipation.

Decent buzz out of TIFF and Sundance but the title is a bit off-putting.

Enjoyment.

Absorbing but gruelling.

In Retrospect.

Mancinelli and Sims-Brewer’s take on rape revenge is a paradigm shift for the genre.

Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer’s gruelling rape revenge thriller shrewdly subverts the genre.

Rape-revenge is one of the most misunderstood and unfairly maligned film genres. The name largely evokes controversial exploitation flicks of the 1970s like I Spit on Your Grave and Last House on the Left, but in fact it encompasses a plethora of stories and approaches. From the petrifying gaze of Medusa to the grief stricken tragedy of Promising Young Woman, rape revenge is never straightforward.

Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer’s Violation follows in the footsteps of Promising Young Woman by subverting expectations of the genre. These films, unlike many of their predecessors, opt out of depicting sexual violence, instead focussing on grief, conflict and catharsis. But where Promising Young Woman stops short of violent retribution the consequences here are almost unbearably barbarous.

The vengeful woman at the centre of Violation is Miriam (played by Sims-Fewer), who along with her surly husband (Obi Abili) goes to stay with her younger sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and brother-in-law Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). Her marriage is hanging by a thread, with thinly-veiled contempt on either side; her dynamic with her sister, meanwhile, is lightly dysfunctional, with moments of affection punctured by breathtakingly casual cruelty.

Miriam’s only healthy relationship appears to be with childhood friend Dylan. Their scenes of cheerful banter starkly contrast the rest of the film, the warm chemistry between Sims-Fewer and LaVerCombe rendering the consequent tragedy all the more cruel. Much like in Promising Young Woman, it is the “nice guys” you let your guard around that so often prove to be the most dangerous. Violation reminds us that real-life threats are as likely to crop up with one’s nearest and dearest as they are in dimly-lit alleyways.

Much of Violation is constructed to be endured rather than enjoyed. The direction is unflinching in the film’s darkest moments, slowing to an agonising, almost real-time pace in order to confront the nauseating reality of Miriam’s situation. This is accented by a palette of blues and greys, stripping every last bit of warmth from each painful moment.

Sims-Fewer shines both behind and in front of the camera, and her script is competently constructed – but many of her words are not entirely convincing when spoken by the rest of the cast. Her evident love of visual metaphors at times feels a little overdone. Long symbolic shots of predators devouring their prey are effective if slightly heavy-handed, falling short of the Lars von Trier comparison they are clearly striving for.

Violation is available to stream on Shudder from 25 March.

Published 22 Mar 2021

Tags: Dusty Mancinelli Madeleine Sims-Fewer Violation

Anticipation.

Decent buzz out of TIFF and Sundance but the title is a bit off-putting.

Enjoyment.

Absorbing but gruelling.

In Retrospect.

Mancinelli and Sims-Brewer’s take on rape revenge is a paradigm shift for the genre.

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Camille Keaton on the legacy of I Spit on Your Grave

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The actor reflects on her role in the controversial rape revenge classic from 1978.

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