The Meeting – Film Review by Frank L
Directed by Alan Gilsenan
Ailbhe Griffith was sexually assaulted on her way home having got off her bus. Nine years after the attack, notwithstanding the perpetrator having served a criminal sentence, she still needed to get the events surrounding the attack behind her or as she succinctly states, to get her life back. She wanted to meet her attacker. She was needing what has become known as “restorative justice”. An advocate of that process is and has been one Marie Keenan. She made contact with her.
To create such a meeting requires careful and detailed preparations. Gilsenan’s film does not deal with these important procedural steps. It concentrates on the meeting itself. The very essence of the process.
In the film Ailbhe Griffith plays herself, in this dramatised reconstruction of actual events. She is supported at the meeting by Marie Keenan who is also played by herself. There was no transcript of the actual meeting but Gilsenan has from detailed interviews with Ailbhe Griffith and Marie Keenan reconstructed the events which occurred at the meeting in order to recreate what took place. The perpetrator is played by an actor Terry Neill as is the chair of the meeting and their respective supporters. Terry Neill’s performance given the dynamics of being an actor while the woman opposite is the actual victim of the sexual attack which is being considered in detail is of the first rank.
In a recent interview in the Irish Times Alan Gilsenan explains the decision of the attacker not to participate in the making of the film. As a result Gilsenan states “while each and every detail of The Meeting is true, we anonymised the man and removed all personal elements. I hope the press and other media will respect and concur with that decision.” It is most important that his words are heeded.
The film lasts the same period of time that the actual meeting lasted. The relevance of time is accentuated by the plain clock which watches guard over the meeting as it unfolds. The calmness which imbues the proceedings, notwithstanding the violence which it is analysing, is a credit to all participants including the perpetrator who attended the actual meeting. Gilsenan requires high praise for undertaking such a daunting enterprise and delivering it with such dignity and seriousness. It is to be hoped that this careful reconstruction of a meeting between a victim and a perpetrator may lead to an increased understanding in society of the value of the restorative justice processes. Ailbhe Griffith in playing herself in the film proclaims that she has indeed got her life back and is by her assured presence in the film a wonderful advocate for the process.