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Blurred Lines

One Plus One/Sundance Institute

Violation (2021)

This review contains spoilers, so consider this fair warning. Amputation and dismemberment seem to have been a running theme throughout the 2021 Sundance Film Festival selections, and “Violation” certainly has its share. Yet, this rape revenge flick is the only offering (that this reviewer is aware of) at the Sundance virtual screening portal that requires age verification, presumably for prominently featuring a fully erect penis.

Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer, who also cowrote, codirected and coproduced the film with Dusty Mancinelli) and her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) are joined by their respective spouses, Caleb (Obi Abili) and Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe), at lakeside cabins for what seems to be a ritual retreat. Miriam gravitates toward Dylan after falling out with both Greta and Caleb, and things get dark quick.

The good: “Violation” depicts gaslighting and victim blaming in a truly infuriating way that’s more disturbing than any graphic violence onscreen. The bad: The film unintentionally leaves viewers wondering whether the punishment the victim administers to the perpetrator actually fits the crime. A rape scene can be tricky for a filmmaker who wishes to guard against any exploitation or voyeurism, but here it’s very much glossed over due to the victim’s inebriated P.O.V. By contrast, the revenge is over-the-top brutal, with cheap-looking effects that read as playing for laughs.

Ultimately, a subplot involving big sister’s overbearingness turns out to be the undoing of “Violation.” It’s not fleshed out at all, but it implies that the retribution sought is motivated in part by a desire to protect the younger sibling – as if rage from sexual assault isn’t enough by itself. Does the film really mean to conflate sexual violation with a sister’s overstepping-bounds meddling?


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