Directed by #RaphaelVieira
Film review by Nathanial Eker
Yikes. Untouched is a painfully misguided drama that seemingly exists purely to propagandise a social movement. Ignoring film as a platform for inspiring debate, Untouched chooses to beat its audience over the head with emotive iconography and aggressive, accusatory sanctions. It's also not aided by pantomimic acting, whiplash inducing tone, and exposition so on the nose, that you can practically count the hairs.
Mitch (Chip Lane) is an alcoholic lawyer in Savannah tasked with defending a preacher’s teenage daughter, accused of murdering her own child. When his ex ‘RJ’ (Jenn Gotzon) gets involved, the case turns nasty, and Mitch’s own demons must be confronted.
Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Film is of course regularly used as a platform to encourage debate, usually through metaphor, or via a grippingly realistic case study. Untouched provides neither, and its markedly clunky argument simply serves to make us cringe at its overtness; the scene where an innocent woman is openly shamed for her abortion was difficult to watch, to say the least.
While the script tries to cover its accusatory subtext by removing agency from the accused, this only serves to further damage its erroneous modus operandi. Jacquelyn and Angela (the two women that lose a child) are given virtually no screen time, crafting a perspective led by male dominance. A more cynical man might suggest that this is a tactic to coyly side-step into a pro-life message without directly reprimanding the women themselves. By trying to have their cake and eat it too, the filmmakers end up with a sentiment that oxymoronically admonishes abortion without directly confronting those who would have the procedure.
Regardless of its heavy-handed themes, Untouched remains an ineffective legal drama. Almost every player is dull, unbelievable, wooden, or a combination of the three. Chelsea Cardwell as Lauren offers a refreshing exception, though despite initially appearing to be a secondary protagonist, she’s relegated to background fodder; engulfed by an absurd number of side-characters.
The cinematography of Untouched is comparatively stronger, though there is a bizarre obsession with amateurish time-lapses. Equally, the mise-en-scène ranges from an impressive, Law and Order style courtroom, to a downright laughable ‘trashed’ lounge consisting of one messy shirt and a rogue banana peel. To give credit where due, there are well-considered musical motifs, though the score tends to tonally jar more often than is comfortable. Some scenes begin with percussion and electric guitar led motifs typical of the legal drama genre, only to blend into melodies more at home in a romantic comedy.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the writing that hammers the final nail into Untouched’s coffin. Exposition is so overt that you’d be forgiven for mistaking the supporting cast for a Brechtian Greek chorus, explaining the subtext that we’re clearly too thick to understand. Exchanges between characters lack chemistry and do nothing to support the painful overacting, though the script does remain exemplar in one way; it’s an excellent case study for the need to redraft.
Untouched doesn’t have a lot going for it. Its plot is predictable and biased, its pace is sluggish, and its actors seem ripped straight from only the worst Scary Movie spinoff. Despite some okay cinematography and an occasionally enjoyable musical motif, this amateurish indie flick is buried under the weight of its own propagandised ambitions. Had it been reduced to a twenty-minute short with most of the cast cut, it could’ve presented its message in a more compelling manner. As is, its heavy handed, one-sided approach is perhaps what damages it most, as it raises questions that the filmmakers would seemingly rather not answer.
Why are events shown from Mitch’s perspective? Why is there no female perspective that addresses how they feel about having lost a child? And most damming of all; why is Jacquelyn a plot device to serve the redemption arc of a privileged, alcoholic white male?
That’s not to say that men can’t struggle with mental health or be affected by the act of aborting their child; of course they can. However, the lack of a substantial female voice in a story about a female-only procedure leaves me with a profoundly sour taste.
Regardless of whether you find its message problematic, the fact remains that the film is simply not very well made. It’s all in all better left ‘untouched.’