Directed by: #MollyManningWalker
Written by: #MollyManningWalker
Sexual assault has been notoriously misrepresented and minimised in film. Either sexually aggressive behaviour is presented as romantic, or the victims of sexual assault are presented as the ones at fault, rather than the rapist. Very few films that even address themes of sexual assault demonstrate the hoops victims must go through to report assault. Director and writer Molly Manning Walker’s film astutely portrays the real experiences of many victims of sexual assault, allowing their voices to take centre stage.
Amy (Jasmine Jobson) has been assaulted. It seems impossible to utter the words to her boyfriend, Lewis (Micheal Ward), who can sense there is something wrong, but he just can’t place his finger on it. Amy shuffles behind him on the settee, her knees and nose pressing into his fluffy hoodie. It would be easier to admit this trauma without the glare of eye contact, but Amy can’t murmur the words out. Jasmine Jobson holds the entire film together as the tired, anxious Amy. She sucks in her lower lip, pursing it when her name is called in the doctor’s office. Exhaustion rattles her like she’s been up for weeks replaying the trauma over and over again in her mind. Jobson’s acting relies on sighs and the unspoken words that Amy wants to say but can’t speak into existence. This scared and traumatised sixteen-year-old is lead into the circuses of the legal system. The rooms of lawyers, police and doctors swirl past her asking questions with the similar underlying tone: but it is your fault, really.
Even the colours lull the audience into a false sense of security. Amy’s school shirt is a tranquil bright blue. The light in Lewis’s living room radiates warmth as it reflects on the terracotta-coloured couch. This warmth is the same utilised in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, yet here this is a trick to unnerve the viewer. Slate blues and dirty greys have no place in this film. But the comfort of these colours throws Amy off-kilter. These are the very places where she should feel at home, and she should feel safe. But either she cannot speak her secret into existence, or when she does, it is insinuated that she could have done something to avoid the current situation. It doesn’t matter if Amy was drinking. It doesn’t matter if she was wearing a short skirt. All that matters is that she was assaulted. Manning Walker gives no screen time to Amy’s attacker, but instead, he is the spectre that haunts this piece. Instead of having the assault painfully burned into celluloid shot-by-shot, the event is roughly fragmented, as though random details keep swimming up to the surface in Amy’s brain, but then are hurriedly pushed away as she tries to forget.
Manning Walker’s film is not only expertly crafted, but it is timely too. Over 1/3 of women and girls will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. Yet, very few films spend time trying to understand what the victims experience in the aftermath of the assault. One of Manning Walker’s next projects is a feature-length film about consent. If this short is anything to go by, Manning Walker is a talent to look out for.