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Sundance 2021 Review: ‘Violation’

Estranged sisters Miriam (Madeleine Sims Fewer) and Greta (Anna Mcguire) reunite for the first time in years. The two are joined by their significant others Caleb (Obi Abili) and Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). The foursome hang out, go fishing together, light bonfires and keep things pretty chill. However, there is tension between them all. Miriam and Caleb are on the verge of a breakup while Greta and her sister are mending their broken relationship. Unfortunately, the reunification doesn’t go well for Miriam. She is betrayed by her sister and her brother-in-law in the most unspeakable way, and to cope with the trauma she turns to violence for solace. 

Violation meanders through the first and most of the second act. I found myself asking where the story going. There are countless shots of grass, insects, and trees that don’t do anything but pad the runtime. However, things take a turn for the better once Miriam’s revenge agenda kicks into high gear.

The narrative is expressed with surreal, dreamlike cinematography by Adam Crosby, making it clear that writer/directors Dusty Mancinelli,  Madeleine Sims-Fewer are more preoccupied with the aesthetics of their story than giving it a deeper purpose. Which in this case, it’s not a bad thing. The duo understands this narrative is formulaic and realizes the need to tell a familiar story creatively. 

© Shudder

The film jumps back and forth through time to throw off the viewer and deviates from a linear structure. This is intentional and meant to disorient the viewer to prevent them from keeping track of events. While the time-jumping isn’t always done with grace, it’s impactful, especially by the third act. 

Fewer, and Mancinelli do well to capture that violent female gaze by examining what happens when Miriam is filled with unforgiving rage. Rarely are there confrontations between men and women in film as visceral and savage as what is seen between Miriam and Dylan. The movie makes the audience sit through every brutally uncomfortable minute right until the end. 

Violation ends with Miriam shedding tears, looking out into the yard, watching visitors eat ice cream. This scene leads to one of the biggest Oh s**t moments no one will see coming. The directors are sure to wrap this story up tightly, leaving the audience with mouth’s agape and the inability to recover from the events that came before it. 

*This film premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020 but was viewed at Sundance 2021. Violation will premiere on Shudder later this year. 

Valerie Complex View All

Writer, Critic, and passionate about comics, movies and equality on the big screen.

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