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VOD Review: Violation

March 19, 2021

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The feature debut of Canadian co-directors Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer, who’ve made several short films together over the past few years, Violation is a confidently made first feature that serves as an incredibly dark entry into the revenge thriller genre.

Sims-Fewer stars in the film as Miriam, a woman who goes with her husband Caleb (Obi Abili) to stay with her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and brother-in-law Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) at their cottage. Miriam and Greta haven’t seen each other in several years, and long-held rivalries exist between them. When Miriam gets sexually assaulted, and isn’t taken seriously, she takes things into her own hands and seeks violent revenge.

The first thing that should be said about Violation, which mixes drama and horror and premiered as part of the Midnight Madness sidebar at TIFF last year, is that this is an uncompromisingly brutal film. Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer don’t hold back from depicting extreme violence and disturbing content, and it’s so much at times that certain scenes actually made me feel queasy to watch.

Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer, who also wrote the film’s screenplay, balance out these moments of suspense and graphic violence with long dialogue scenes between the characters. It’s the completely naturalistic and believable feel of these scenes that makes everything that happens around them that much more shocking. The very methodical, matter of fact way that the violence is depicted makes it incredibly uncomfortable to sit through. But this is also the film’s point. This is a film about extreme reactions brought on by assault and victim blaming, and it’s not meant to be an easy watch.

By presenting the story slightly out of order, the film also effectively toys with our own perception of events. Sims-Fewer fully commits to the darkness of the role, and her performance as Miriam is one of the most impressive aspects of the film, detailing how trauma impacts the character’s already fraying mental state. As Dylan, LaVercombe does a very good job of balancing both the character’s outward charm and inherent creepiness, making suggestions that his character is a manipulative psychopath eerily believable. 

While I can’t really say that I enjoyed watching Violation, I did admire the strength of the filmmaking and performances. The film features moody cinematography by Adam Crosby, who utilizes many artsy closeups including during the assault sequence, and a dramatic musical score by Andrea Boccadoro that incorporates choral elements. The film’s depictions of sexual assault and brutal violence make it one that some audience members simply won’t be able to handle watching, but if you know what you’re getting into, the film does provide a very unsettling and thought provoking viewing experience.

Violation is now available to rent exclusively on the digital TIFF Bell Lightbox. It’s being distributed in Canada by Pacific Northwest Pictures.

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