Movie Review: ‘A Violent Separation’

Review by Bradley Smith

In 1983, the brother of a small-town deputy mistakenly kills someone close to him. Worried about the appearance, he enlists the deputy to help him cover up his tragic error. As the sheriff’s investigation closes in despite the deputy’s attempted cover up, the brothers’ guilt puts a strain on their loyalties and relationships. The movie is largely an exploration about family bonds, impossible choices, and the relationship choices people make, while offering some thrills and suspense.

Norman Young (Brenton Thwaites; The Giver, POTC: Dead Men Tell No Tales) has to decide whether to turn in his older brother, Ray (Ben Robson; The Boy), or help him cover up a death that already looks like a murder by the time he gets the call from his brother (because his brother foolishly moved the body). It is a tough choice, no doubt. One would think they could do the right thing in similar situations, but you never really know until faced with such a choice. The bad choices are only compounded as the lies expand and others get involved.

The film has plenty of fine actors who are up to par this round. Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs, Monk) takes the focus for a portion of the film as the Sherriff investigating the disappearance, later death (spoiler, the body is found, not that it was well hidden by Norman and/or Ray). Gerald McRaney (Never Ending Story, countless tv shows including recent appearances on This Is Us) is the father of two sisters, Frances and Abbey portrayed by Australian actresses Alycia Debnam-Carey (Friend Request, The 100) and Claire Holt (Vampire Diaries, Originals), respectively. The sisters have their own issues both on their own and dealing with the Young brothers and have to make their own debatable choices throughout the film.

I found the period setting unnecessary other than giving it a timeless feel or being able to ignore modern investigation techniques and technology. The story takes place during a short time frame in 1983, though the crime, cover up, and family relationships have almost nothing that could not be told in modern times; maybe the pay phone. As far as I can tell, it is not based on real events and It does not end with details about the future of any surviving characters (spoiler?).

Aside from the prior nitpicks, I found the story to be dramatic, heartbreaking, and tense. It has thought-provoking themes, debatable character actions, and a good morale. It ends on a somber tone that could be seen as optimistic or it at least relates to the opening narration, which was about life on Earth continuing on regardless of what we do; all we can do is choose with whom we spend our time.

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