Miriam from Sims-Fewer seems worried at the start of the film as she walks to a cabin in the woods with her husband, Caleb (Obi Abili). There is a reluctance between them as they travel the scenic roads en route to their destination. And while the slow-motion footage of the trees, forests, and lakes they pass through may seem cool and bucolic, there is clearly something sinister lurking beneath. The filmmakers return again and again to the image of a wolf attacking a rabbit in the woods, gnawing at its hairy flesh in a very close-up. This may sound like an obvious metaphor, but who is the predator and who is the prey will change over time.
Waiting at the cabin are Miriam’s sister, Greta (Anna Maguire), and Greta’s husband, Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe). But while the sisters’ relationship is a bit tangy, Miriam and Dylan have an undeniably loving connection. Walking and talking in the forest, they share a sparkling chemistry. They both tease each other also noticing little quirks, suggesting a degree of care and tenderness.
Eventually, however, things change after a drunken night by the fireside. And then they change again. Disclosing more would be a spoiler, and if you’ve got the stomach for “Violation,” you should know as little as possible about specific plot points. But suffice it to say that the warm, intimate aesthetic of the first half of the film gives way to a more graphic, dark, and in-your-face approach. It’s bloody, gory and smelly, for one of the characters in the movie and for us. In a way reminiscent of Lars von Trier, the camera doesn’t look away, although you will probably feel the need to do it yourself. But there is no rush of satisfaction in this revenge. It is just sickening and sad.
Sims-Fewer and Mancinelli want us to see Miriam clearly and absorb what she is experiencing, to give her our undivided attention as she goes through her angst. And yet, as a character, she’s a bit of a number, despite Sims-Fewer’s raw and committed performances. We never know what it’s about with her husband, and there is absolutely nothing in her character. It’s all the more unfortunate that Caleb, who is black, is the only person of color in the film.
The decision of the filmmakers to tell the story in chronological order is also problematic. They time-skip in a way that disorientates at first and makes us work, because it’s unclear whether the moments we see are before or on the weekend as a couple. Another confusing element is that these scenes also take place in the cabin. The confusing narrative structure allows for some a-ha revelations, but above all it creates distance for the viewer.