Directed by: #ToyahFrantzen
Most film fans would happily be consumed by escapism; a brief diversion from the mundanity of life. But occasionally, film becomes the perfect medium to remind us of harsh realities in a troubled world. The Case of Katelyn Burns aims to give us just such an insight. The title character (Jade Colucci) is estranged from mother Julie (Katie Pattinson) and sister Lauren (Natalie Martins). Step father Tim (Ian Burfield) has systematically abused the family and forced combative Katelyn from the family home. This left the malleable Julie and Lauren to endure further punishment. Katelyn has not led a trouble free existence since; but returns to defend her mother and sister from Tim.
The Case of Katelyn Burns opens with a cosy image of domesticity; a mantelpiece festooned with pictures and family trinkets. However the scene quickly transforms as Tim recoils, clutching his neck while Julie lies wounded and Lauren is rooted to the spot. Did Katelyn attack Tim or was it purely self-defence; one final act of survival? The piece benefits from sharp editing, as the action switches between police interviews and violence in the home. This is the well-worn evil step parent scenario, intimidating those around him to maintain control; apparently devoid of affection with no blood link to his wife’s children. There is no question that step parents can be abusive, but it felt dangerously close to stereotyping; and might have made a stronger story if all the characters were blood related. Nevertheless, the portrayal of conflict is gripping with the most frightening scenes featuring Tim and Julie. Hand held cameras are effectively used to heighten the tension, adding fly on the wall appeal.
Whilst the cast deliver strong performances, it doesn’t entirely work as the narrative lacks cohesion. The motivation of certain characters isn’t entirely clear and leaves a sizable gap in the plot. Whilst the subject matter is clearly signposted, it delivers a pay-off that is both surprising and confusing. Sometimes the filmmaker has to anticipate questions in the viewers’ mind; otherwise logic disappears and the story loses impact. In this context there’s not enough detail to draw a reasonable conclusion; nor is there time to flesh out characters that are clearly three dimensional. Director Toyah Frantzen has done the hard part by capturing our attention; but the 10 minute format is insufficient to carry such a complex story.