Directed by: #LaviniaSimina
Written by: Fiona Whitelaw
If there’s one thing admirable about Acceptable Damage, it’s a promotion of understanding towards those different from the norm. Its climax proves that hatred leads to a cycle of pain; a genuinely thought-provoking theme to explore on screen. Regrettably, the film stumbles over itself repeatedly. A clunky script and woefully on the nose dialogue make Acceptable Damage a case study for the necessity of another draft.
Our protagonist is Katy, a girl with Asperger’s syndrome who matches her innate kindness with goth queen levels of quirk. Discussing the portrayal of a real-life condition puts me on shaky ground, as I’m far from an expert. What can be said, is that the performance of Elinor Fortune is emotionally charged. As Katy happily plays in the sprinkler or innocently sasses her ‘mumma’, you can’t help but feel charmed. Disappointingly, the wide majority of performances aren’t as strong. Perhaps due to the unnatural dialogue, or a lack of direction, would-be boyfriend Roxy and anxious mother Lucy, present little more than stereotype infused husks, floating from scene to scene without intent or passion. Screaming does not equate to good acting.
Scenes are generally established well, with decent, if sometimes shaky #cinematography that captures the light to reflect character intent. For example, the recurring image of Katy jumping happily in the beaming sunlight in a white dress symbolises her purity in an obvious, but effective way. This combined with a swelling orchestral score that favours stringed instruments for our protagonist’s leitmotif, set the scene to a professional standard. Until the characters open their mouths.
Despite the serious subject matter, you’d be hard pressed to suppress a hearty guffaw at some of the painfully ill devised exchanges. Words are repeated unnecessarily, characters outright state their intent, and sentences said simply wouldn’t be uttered by any real person on planet Earth. One scene presents a policeman as apathetic to Katy’s plight at best, and as an inhumane robot who doesn’t understand how feelings work at worst. Another side character, Zoe, appears to be little more than another stereotypical ne’er-do-well, until the final ten minutes, when the script decides that her role is that of a Hannibal Lecter level of psychopath.
That said, there are elements of greatness, far removed from the mediocre acting and sloppy writing. The wall effect, perhaps a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street, works wonders in a non-horror capacity, emphasising how being touched feels for Katy. This kind of non-verbal communication shows Acceptable Damage at its best. Equally effective is the use of a silent daydream, showing the otherworldly imagery that personifies Katy’s affection for Roxy without a word.
Overall, however, despite momentary compelling drama, Acceptable Damage is unacceptably mediocre. Biting social commentary and a theme of acceptance present a blueprint for an emotionally effective story of cyclical abuse, but the execution is too sluggish to be truly affecting. Wooden acting, confused character motivations, and unrealistic dialogue sadly culminate in a missed opportunity drowning in stereotypes and clichés.
Watch the official indie film trailer below.