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average rating is 3 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

Sep 18, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Angelo Reyes
Written by:
Mary J. Dixon, Angelo Reyes
Danielle Lyn, Angelo Reyes, Amor Owens

Angelo Reyes’ Groomed – a drama short based on the real-life story of trafficking survivor Tanya Street – is a difficult and daunting film that imperfectly but authentically realises the disturbing pathways many young women find themselves dragged down that lead to a life of abuse and violence.


Maria (Danielle Lyn) flees home after a fallout with her parents, finding herself having to survive on her own. She falls in love with Ricardo (Reyes), an older boyfriend who manipulates her into sleeping with a friend for money in order for them to pursue a life together. But as time passes, Maria is forced into more and more acts of prostitution, until her entire sense of self and worth have been destroyed as she sees no way out of the life she feels trapped in.


Groomed makes for an interesting comparison with the recently released Sound of Freedom - the Qanon and Trump supported action that also focuses on human trafficking. Both are based on true stories, but Groomed’s portrayal of the sinister, personal and manipulative methods that faux-boyfriend types utilise to coerce trusting partners into a life of sexual slavery is a much more common and regular crisis than the supposed rings of paedophiles who act as antagonists of Alejandro Monteverde’s feature. Groomed shows that trafficking usually starts much closer to home – and this personal account of inspiration Tanya Street’s experience acts as a much more relevant and complex exploration of the issue as a result.


Whilst the story itself is affecting, the film itself has some significant storytelling flaws that its powerful message cannot deflect from. The short runtime means that the relationship between Maria and Ricardo is seriously condensed, essentially acting out over the course of a single scene. This means there is no chance for any sort of chemistry to develop between the pair, and Maria’s decision to follow her supposed boyfriend’s lead to a place she does not want to go does not feel fully developed or comprehensible. As the film progresses, other issues arise – such as the finale in which Maria is able to escape her controllers with ridiculous ease. Whilst the scenes themselves are clearly meant to be symbolic of real events and a metaphor for the act of good Samaritans, the events in the film’s world fail to align with the reputation of the characters that have been created and portray Maria as someone who never thought of an easy and straightforward escape.


The acting is lacklustre and below par for even a lower-budget film. The majority of the cast provide wooden and stunted delivery of their lines, and never match the required anguish, anger or intensity of the situation their characters find themselves in. Some of this is a result of scripting issues as well as the shorter runtime which never really allows proper development to take place, but the basics of delivery and performance could have been ironed out much more thoroughly.


Groomed has a lot of rough edges and deficiencies, but brings to life an emotional and difficult story relatively well. Trafficking and slavery make for an incredibly difficult topic, and the director manages to portray issues and realities around this in a respectful and authentic way.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Digital / DVD Release, Short Film, World Cinema
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