A review of movies that are based on the subject of Domestic Violence and/or Childhood Abuse.
Please note that as a victim or even a survivor of the topics mentioned above, these movies may be too strong or give you a mixed message. It is important that you consider this before viewing the film. Sometimes a movie can set a person back in their healing process. A scene can jog your memory, if you have not already remembered. It can cause you to digress and go into a state of depression. The movies are meant to teach those who do not already understand the issue at hand. However, for some people, at a farther stage in the healing process, it can remind in a way that will re-assure them that this issue is well in the history of their mind and not a topic at hand. Sometimes we need a reminder, when we have started to become fragile in our choices we make with relationships. And when we are not sure if our situation is really what we think it is, the movie can force you to take notice of your own personal life.
Author’s note: I am a personal fan of foreign films, solely due to their realistic portrayal of families, whether good or bad. Foreign films are without gimmicks (a.k.a. special effects) and are minus all the Hollywood fashion awards and glamour that takes place in most American movies. In a foreign film, I find myself walking into the house and watching from a nearby chair the events that are going on in front of my eyes. In a Hollywood film I find myself going to an amusement park, with lights flashing all around me and too many people disturbing the picture. Many times an American movie is so distracting that I am often more concerned about the famous actor making a fool of themselves, or wondering or even knowing what will happen next. So please don’t be surprised at the remarks I make if it is your favorite Hollywood actor/actress in the film. Movies can be made to teach people or they can be made to win an Oscar. What is more important, you must decide.
Click on the titles below to see one of the webpages for this movie.
Once Were Warriors – New Zealand
Issues raised: domestic violence, sexual molest, child abuse
This film is based on the aborigine culture from New Zealand. It shows a couple who has left their home to make a life in the city. As with most relationships, where violence is an issue, the first step for the batterer is to take the victim away from any family, social contacts or support structure. This movie is extremely violent and must be seen with caution to this advice. It will bring up a lot of old feelings and emotions. If you can get through it, the ending is very heroic and empowering, albeit extremely depressing.
When I watched this movie, I was very careful to study the details of this couple and their interaction. It is well acted and made by aborigines. Later, I saw a documentary where a moderator talked about the making of this film. He stated that once shown in the country of New Zealand, there was quite a significant amount of progress with regards to the issue and the countryside. Many women went to shelters seeking help and men went to counselors saying that they were batterers but using phrases from the movie to explain themselves. I think we can learn a lot by looking at how other countries and societies view the issue of domestic violence.
The War Zone – British
Issues raised: sexual molest
This movie is extremely graphic with very candid scenes of sexual molest between a father and teenage daughter. If you have experienced this in your life, you may not want to see this film. It is however an excellent portrayal of the issue, and sometimes you must show the act in order for people to get it. What is also very well displayed is the family dynamics in the household of denial, misunderstandings, betrayal and how they react to the information once they know is interesting to say the least. You must remember that the two siblings in this movie are both teenagers and neither understands what is happening to them nor are they mature enough to know how to act.
Issues raised: child abuse
Before watching this film on American Movie Classics, the moderator stated that the children were not actors, but locals from the village where this film was shot. That was an important point to make and made the movie much more unique and realistic. There are no violent scenes in this movie and one could watch it without getting to caught up in the drama (from a personal level). However, it isn’t necessary to show the violence in order to understand what is happening, and that is what makes it visually an excellent movie. There is a scene where the villagers are reacting to the perpetrators as they are taken away by the police. It is intense and can be quite moving. There are also scenes, which depict neglect in other families, and one very strange and scary scene involving a baby. But this is a foreign film, with different cultural values and certainly a much different environment than one might find in a big city. Although you are still left wondering who should be throwing stones, and it seems as if the people in the village are considering this as the movie ends. I could not find a good review of the movie in English, which is why the title is not highlighted above.
The Celebration – Danish
Issues raised: sexual molest and suicide
It is extremely depressing throughout the entire movie, but it is well acted and makes the point also without showing graphic scenes. There are scenes, but the actual acts of sexual molest and suicide is verbally explained in a way that is much more potent. It is a film about confrontation, many years later after the acts have occurred. It shows how a family reacts, the shock, the misunderstandings, and the humiliation of being put out in front of your peers. But of course as a viewer, while it is all shocking, it is also understood considering what these children (now adults) had to endure for most of their lives, hidden in the corners of their house, unknown even to their own mother.
Sleeping with the Enemy – American
Issues raised: domestic violence
Truly, this was a film made to boost Julia Robert’s career by giving her a well-rounded press sheet. The movie depicts an upper class woman who finds a way to escape her psychopathic husband and assume a new identity. It is good, but unrealistic for most audiences and can be too much of a fairytale. Now can you imagine Julia Robert’s not ending up on top?!? It is unrealistic because rich victims of domestic violence are not quite as commonplace as they are to those in lower economic brackets. It happens, but making the public aware of it is not quite as important as understanding the issue where it affects people the most. Usually, young naive women who come from lower classes and much less money. This movie has too many fashion secrets, gimmicks and romance.
Double Jeopardy – American
Issues raised: domestic violence and murder
Back to back with Julia’s film and this makes much more sense. If you want to show domestic violence amongst the rich and influential, this movie is much more realistic. It is a sleazy entry in to the field of domestic violence because up front, to everyone, you wouldn’t see it. But after watching the movie it makes perfect sense. Not to mention the ordeal that this woman goes through, after her child is removed from her, due to circumstances beyond her control. It is not about boosting Ashley Judd’s career, but more about the tale of mystery and suspense. A story that is caught up in tangling up the web, so that the viewer is so confused up until almost the very end. You probably won’t get caught up in the drama of domestic violence because you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see what will happen next. But it definitely shows you that you cannot be too trustful and never take your relationship for granted, no matter how long you have been in it or how much in love your partner claims to be.
The Gift – American
Issues raised: domestic violence, murder, child abuse, mental illness and rape
An excellent portrayal of southern hospitality in “any-small-hick-town” U.S.A. From the moment the characters are introduced you feel as if anything could happen and it does. Meanwhile your skin is crawling and your heart is racing at the suspense of yet another intriguing drama. The movie is pretty blunt in making the victim of domestic violence out to be a complete and utter hopeless fool. But it is realistic in the sense that she, [the victim], is so caught up in her drama, in this small town with no hope for any future, that you can’t help but have some empathy for her. The prosecuting attorney does, and there is a very potent scene whereby he makes a statement about domestic violence to the batterer that would make anyone want to jump for joy! This movie is also a good portrayal of life in the psychic world, as the main character is a reader and a good actress, although the film could have done without it’s ridiculous gimmicks that ruin the authenticity. A word of caution, this movie is extremely violent and could scare the dickens out of you.
Carousel – American
Issues raised: domestic violence
This was actually considered (and still is) an American classic. It is highly acclaimed for its acting, singing and dancing, but of course not to mention the big movie stars. You could get caught up in the romance and swept away in love if you aren’t wise enough to pay attention to what is actually happening. Remember the honeymoon stage of a batterer? It is easy to get caught up in flowers and song. But don’t, this is a film about a woman who is abused by her husband who is a criminal and a low-life. Who cares about taking care of him when your own life is at risk? Shirley Jones, the lead actress actually sings a song about how pain can be acceptable if it is coming from the one you love. And what is more taxing on one’s nerves is that she teaches the song to her daughter, so that she may one day fall in love with a batterer as well. While this may be an American classic for all the reasons mentioned above, times have now changed. Historically, this movie was depicting the truth of its time period. There was a time when women were considered at fault when their marriages went array. Religion and society coerced these ladies into finding ways to deal with their husbands temper, or any other behaviors because that was her duty as his wife. Marriage, in this time period, was about survival and necessity. It was not about happiness and independence and with this in mind it can be seen with a conscious attitude. It is not recommended for women who are unsure if they should stay with their husband or leave. If you click on the title above you will see what I mean about Hollywood’s version of what this movie is about and my realistic summation. It is good that this film was made, but please review it with your eyes WIDE open!
Wuthering Heights – American
Issues raised: child abuse
Another American classic which romanticizes abuse and makes one fall in love with the “hero” or handsome movie actor. This film was based on a book, which was again written about and in a time period where abuse was viewed as a part of life for some people. In this movie, we see a man who is obsessed about a woman in a class higher than his own. She dies, and leaves a child which ends up looking exactly like the mother. The man is unable to deal with this and abuses the child teaching her to fear and feel hatred. While it is a literary masterpiece and a good portrayal of a novel, one must not forget what is actually occurring in this movie. Heathcliff is not good husband material, obsession is not a good quality but a rather abnormal way for one to behave. It is not a healthy characteristic for a human being to have. Most likely, would he and Catherine have had different odds in their favor, they would never have been happy anyway. Especially in that time period. Be careful what you ask for girls!!! The most recent version with Ralph Feinnes and Juliette Binoche is more graphic and true to the book than the early black and white.
Jane Eyre – American
Issues raised: child abuse and survival.
The movie cut out all the child abuse and went straight for the romantic drama. It is difficult to really appreciate this woman’s story of survival without first knowing where she came from. It is better to read the book in this case, as visually, it is cute, but not really what the author intended for one to know.
This book I have read several times before I ever saw the movie. I could relate to Jane Eyre, as a child, and wished I could have been as strong as her. Although, I have found that over the years, I too am just like Jane. You can be too!
Other Movies: The Women of Brewster Place, The Color Purple, Sea of Love, The Burning Bed. I haven’t seen these recently, so I can’t give a good review about the subject matter and storyline.