Review by Camden Ferrell
Violation premiered at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival and played at other festivals including the Sundance Film Festival and the SXSW Film Festival. This is the first feature film from writing and directing duo Madeline Sims-Fewer and Dusty Mancinelli. Their feature debut is a disturbing and effective revenge movie with some great performances.
Miriam’s marriage to Caleb is falling apart. They both go to visit Miriam’s sister, Greta, and her husband, Dylan. However, after a shocking act, Miriam embarks on an endeavor of revenge, not realizing the repercussions it will have on her own psyche. This comes off as a standard revenge thriller at first, but the movie quickly proves it knows how to add new life to the genre.
The writing of Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli is very strong throughout. The dialogue between the characters is compelling and realistic, and they convincingly capture the nuances of these relationships. There are lots of twists and shocking moments that are written very well, and the movie deals with some very serious subject matters that are handled delicately by the writers.
The performances in this film are great. Sims-Fewer leads the film as Miriam, and she plays the role impressively well. She effortlessly handles the broad range of emotion for the character. There is one brutal scene in which her quite literal regurgitative reaction was entirely real, and it’s an impressive feat. The supporting cast is also talented, but the one that stands out most is Anna Maguire as Greta. Her relationship with her sister is very complicated over the course of the movie, and she perfectly captures those dynamics.
The movie is told non-linearly, which catches you off guard at first, but the execution of the scenes makes it work brilliantly. It makes the film’s disturbing and shocking moments even more unexpected, and it makes its themes more effective. There are some jaw-dropping moments that only work as well as they do because of how the narrative is uniquely structured.
While the film is incredibly brutal, the topic of sexual assault is a sensitive issue that is essential to handle properly. I was impressed by how the film handled that topic throughout, and it didn’t feel exploitative in any way. It maintained its effectiveness without having to exploit the female lead at all. The movie is a revenge film that contains many timely themes and says something unique about the toll revenge can take on somebody.
The film is supported by a brilliant classical score and some haunting imagery. The movie can lose a bit of its steam in the end, but it makes up for it with its eerie ambiance and tension. It’s a fantastic debut from Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli, and they have a profound way of telling this unique story in an engaging way.
Violation is a unique and shocking revenge film that contains some powerful messages. The writing and directing is superb and the acting from Sims-Fewer is fantastic. While it’s not for the faint of heart, this is a film that must be on your radar.
Violation will be released exclusively on Shudder March 25.