On the precipice of her loveless marriage ending, Miriam and her not-quite-yet estranged husband getaway to visit her sister, Greta, and husband, Dylan, at their quiet woodland and lakeside home, an area where Miriam and Greta fondly grew up together. Also sharing a past together as high school friends, Miriam and Dylan enjoy each other’s company in a playful and quipping manner after a lifelong friendship, but after a night of drinking and an outpour of internalized emotions, Miriam slowly awakes to Dylan forcing his way inside her and is unable to stop him. Confronting Dylan and Greta separately further strains the tense situation to the point that Miriam is made out to be the villain in her own sexual assault, sending Miriam to plot a thorough premediated revenge to not only avenge herself but also to save her sister still married to her attacker.
Real hands-and-knees puked vomit splattering over a black tarp. A blindfolded, naked man tied to a chair with a real erect penis saluting tall. If you’ve never seen this Shudder exclusive 2020 released film and you’re reading this review opening fresh eyed, you might automatically presume Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer’s “Violation” a work of pure vomit gore and BDSM pornography. Let me quickly put your mind at ease by saying “Violation” is nothing of the sort, but these unmistakable aspects in the Canadian revenge drama are real and explicit as a deep-seeded personal choice for the writing and directing duo’s first feature length project. Mancinelli and Sims-Fewer’s collaborated history goes back to 2017 as they together write, direct, and produce a handful of short films with a core base of dysfunctional sexual themes in “Slap Happy,” “Woman in Stall,” and “Chubby,” to name a few in their credits. “Violation” continues the trend, providing cathartic discussion for the filmmakers’ tabooed motif at an attempt at bold realism. “Violation” is self-produced by Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli under their production banner, the Toronto-based DM Films, in association with Telefilm Canada and The Talent Fund with financing from the executive producer line of independents, such as François Dagenais (“Ankle Biters”), and the husband-wife duo of David Hamilton and Deepa Mehta of Hamilton-Mehta Productions.
In the lead of Miriam is the writer, director, and producer herself, Madeleine Sims-Fewer, succumbing to a characterized funneling toward piteous rock bottom within her role who, from the get-go, is already in hot water with a dissatisfied husband about their trip to see Miriam’s sister. There’s rarely any happiness for Miriam throughout, even amongst the contentious heart-to-hearts with her own sister, and the little designated of joy to her is quickly squashed by the narrative’s crux and then that’s when Sims-Fewer has to about face to a deeper austere level than even before when those closest to Miriam push her away and become her worst enemies in a blink of an eye. Those mercurial enemies are played by Anna Maguire as Miriam’s fickle younger sister Greta, reteaming with her “Forgotten Man” costar Obi Abili as Miriam’s distant husband Caleb and rounding out the cast as Miriam’s alleged rapist and Greta’s husband Dylan is Jesse LaVercombe who also previously worked on the directors’ short films “Slap Happy” and “Chubby.” Sims-Fewer and Lavercombe really deserve praise for their dedication and courage that circles back to the beginning of this review about real puke and real erection. There’s vulnerability when totally exposed and these two actors, who have tremendous chemistry, shy very little away from the uncomfortable provocations in hard to swallow scenes of realism. We also know where Greta stands in the whole scheme of things, but a big plot hole obtrudes with Obi Abili’s Caleb who unexplainably vanishes in the latter half of the two part narrative. There’s an unsaid presumption that Caleb left Miriam as already rocky marriage kept spiraling down the toilet in the first act, but there was no resolution, leaving the character out in the wind and neglected from the what could have been an interesting interplay of Miriam’s obsessive plot.
“Violation” is not the typical rape-revenge thriller where the victim rises from the ashes like a phoenix and has an insurmountable, if not endless, amount of hate and determination for street justice to see their rapist or rapists six feet under. “Violation’s” slow burn method leans toward a character study with Miriam. Her compassionate human side commingles with her victimized treatment and anger as she’s constantly and consistently second guessing her actions or feeling the utmost, sick-to-her-stomach remorse for her actions that needed to be done in order to avenge herself and also protect her sister as noted in a parallel dream she tells Greta about Miriam sitting in the next room while her sister is unintentionally self-strangulating. Yet, another side to this tale that could also explain Miriam’s hesitancy and, perhaps, guilt. Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli are very explicit in Miriam’s unhappiness with her marriage and also her flirtatious wanting of Dylan, pent up by the lack of sex and joy in her marriage, and she also initiates a kiss with Dylan. Combine those details with a night of drinking, Dylan’s firm stance, and the way the film is shot ambiguously, a pressure cooker moment builds between the characters and viewers whether what stated happened actually happened. Now, I’m not arguing a case for rape culture or make excuses for rapists, but “Violation” tilts toward Miriam’s mental quality that has been compromised by a contentious marriage, life envy, and the preconceived notion that she’s not a good person. Either way, what follows the inconspicuous moment is sharply horrible, a real unsettling exhibition of meaningful art.
“Violation” is certifiably fresh and deservingly so with jarring scenes of gruesomeness, a topical theme of trivializing rape accusations, and compelling character study of one woman’s disharmonious existence in her small inner bubble. Now, you can own it the Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli film on UK Blu-ray from Acorn Media International. The PAL encoded, region 2 Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p full high definition in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2:39:1. “Violation” embodies an engulfing nature domination of the screen through an Adam Crosby lens. No matter how big and important the moment may be in the story, Crosby’s entrancing us with the tiny embers with a close up of the camp fire or having the actors dwarfed by towering trees until the second act that compartmentalizes two antagonistic characters in the same room. The release shows no signs of deflating Crosby’s and the filmmakers’ semi-surreal, flora and fauna vision with a sleek digital recording teeming with a range of wide landscape shots, stark long shots, and super closeups. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound captures as snap, crackle, and pop of the great outdoors; however, the dialogue, though quite clean and clearly audible, sounds a bit boxy at times. Special feature include two extras that are essentially one and the same taking up double the space on BD25 with a meet the filmmakers (Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli) talk very briefly about the genesis of the “Violation.” The second extra, the TIFF Intro, mirrors nearly world-for-world the first special feature. “Violation” has a runtime of 108 minutes and is rated 18 in the UK for strong violence, gore, sexual violence, sex references, and nudity. Viscerally intimate and ghastly, “Violation” is labeled the anti-rape revenge narrative with a close examination of trust and the unfortunate triviality of rape sure to churn stomachs and second guess the intentions of those close to you.