Review by Jeff Myhre
Bonnie (Stephanie Beatriz) is a young architect living the life of a professional woman in Brooklyn. Her career is blossoming, and she and her boyfriend Matt (Michael Stahl-David) are happy together. Then, she walks home alone and drunk one night, suffers a vicious rape, and nothing is the same again. The timeliness of the subject is beyond denial, and the emotional minefield that it explores is powerful stuff for a film-maker. In the hands of a more experienced director, the film might have been great. Writer and director Jessica M. Thompson’s first feature, though, counts as an admirable attempt that just doesn’t live up to its potential.
Beatriz is likable enough, but a character who has the sense to save the evidence of her rape in a plastic shopping bag just might have the street smarts to pour herself into a cab at 2 am in Bushwick. Matt is a caring, supportive guy. Together, they are a plausible couple, and they are often more than convincing as they try to work through the aftermath of the crime together. But it’s uneven. When Matt finally shouts that he is angry and wants to kill the rapist, it just isn’t quite believable. He’s more the type to give the guy a severe talking to.
The film suffers from a self-awareness that reduces the impact of the story. Set in trendy Brooklyn and not Staten Island, our Hispanic rather than white protagonist has a boyfriend (who has some kind of job in advertising) and a gay confidante at work named Jack (as every millennial does – see how tolerant the hipsters are? Although Conrad Ricamora gives a good performance of a stock character). The artsy shots of the borough to show time and place are contrived, as if inserted to please a film class instructor. When Bonnie has to face unpleasant news, the music comes up and the talking is turned down to illustrate tritely her emotional reaction.
Thompson is deliberate in showing the attack in most of its awfulness and the entire post-attack medical exam in painful detail. The voyeurism puts the entire pace of the first half of the film off. When Matt and Bonnie are trying to find the words for which there are no words, Thompson achieves a verisimilitude that is as awkward are real life usually is.
The entire team deserves credit for taking on a difficult subject head on. Acting in some of the more intense scenes would challenge just about anyone in the business, and I am pretty sure they left the set exhausted from the effort.
Perhaps one more rewrite of the script, another edit of the film, a couple different takes, and this film would have been jawdropping. That it isn’t is disappointing. I suspect this wasn’t because they made artistic choices that didn’t pan out quite so much as they didn’t know there were other choices to make. This is a grown-up film made by people who haven’t quite grown up professionally.
There is much in this work to recommend it, yet the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts.
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