There are few things that one person can do to another that is more violating than rape. It is an act of power, an act of selfishness, and an act of degradation. Violation is a film about such an act—a moment when a man sees a woman and takes what he wants. The result is a visceral and uncomfortable watch that sees a woman go to extremes to take her revenge.
Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) was supposed to have a nice, relaxing time at her sister’s cabin. She and her partner Caleb (Obi Abili) are on the outs, and she needs a place to unwind and people to connect with. Her relationship with her sister Greta (Anna Maguire)is strained, but her relationship with Greta’s husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) is flirtatious. They share an undeniable connection, and in a drunken moment, while they are alone by the fire, Miriam kisses him. There are apologies and explanations, and then they fall asleep. The following morning, as Dyan wakes up, he rapes Miriam.
Sims-Fewer and co-director Dusty Mancinelli tell this story out of sequence. Miriam’s story jumps back and forth enough that you might lose track if you aren’t paying attention, but in such a way that the film will repeatedly punch you in the gut if you are. The first timeline follows the day that leads up to the assault as well as the day after. The other follows Miriam a year later, having invited Dylan to the cabin under the pretence of a romantic liaison.
Sims-Fewer, doing triple duty as co-writer, co-director, and star, is the real standout here. Miriam is isolated in the film from beginning end, first by her tense relationships with Greta and Caleb, and later by Greta disbelieving her and Dylan denying the truth of what happened. By the time she has invited Dylan for the rendezvous, she is past the point of desperation, and while she is committed to what she is about to do, she is also anxious and terrified.
Where the movie really shines is in that second timeline. While the performances are great throughout, and the timeline jumping is incredibly effective, this latter half of the film doesn’t go the route that most rape-revenge films do and indulge in a blood-soaked rampage of revenge. Rather, Miriam takes her revenge, and it is shown in bleak, realistic, soul-crushing detail. Combined with persistent close-up imagery of the cabin and the surrounding wilderness, the film creates a relentless, ever-increasing intensity.
Violation is the feature film debut for Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli and is definitely one to see not only because it’s good, but because you’ll be excited to see what they do next.
Violation is streaming as part of the Victoria Film Festival for residents of British Columbia through February 14th.