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Retaliation – Film Review

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Retaliation – Film Review by Hugh Maguire

Directors: Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian
Writer: Geoff Thompson
Stars: Janet Montgomery, Orlando Bloom, Charlie Creed-Miles

An all too common story in the real world, we follow the troubled days of Malcolm, or ‘Malky’, who is engaged in the demolition of an abandoned church building, situated in an old graveyard.  The demolition is not just practical but clearly symbolic, heavily so, as Malcolm shoulders a crucifix in the engulfing rubble, a presence and a removal at one and the same time.  Whether such a very Catholic crucifix adorned what was clearly an Anglican church is a moot point, but any church will do for the narrative and as we learn quickly enough, this building was once the domain of a priest who, it emerges, has sexually abused the teenage Malcolm. 

The physical demolition is clearly equated with some form of cleansing of the past, or perhaps more with raking the coals of that past, because it is clear that Malcolm is a troubled soul, angry with life and with the world.  While the straightforward premise is that the abuse has initiated his troubled trajectory there is more than a hint that Malcolm might have been troubled from an early date.  Clearly his relationship with his mother was not open or warm enough for her to detect his cry for help as a young man and it has clearly worsened over the decades.  He visits her in bad grace and she nags him about girlfriends that might have been, and their successes.  Meanwhile he treats his own on again off again barmaid girlfriend with something bordering on contempt – useful for sex – but not to be treated as an individual with feelings and sensitivities. And in the privacy of his own space he abuses himself sexually – a need to be humiliated looms large in Malcolm’s psyche and all this anger and mood is captured very evocatively through searing images of pain and anger.  Into this troubled brew comes Malcolm’s nemesis, the former parish priest (or curate) who was clearly loved by his congregation and Malcolm’s mother in particular, adding salt to the wound so to speak.

The challenge for the film, the viewer, and its narrative is Malcom’s journey in addressing the wrongs of the past – retaliation in life has many forms and which path Malcolm follows, and how one can move on in some way from any pain or grief is, one supposes, the underlying crux of the tale.  Worth exploring for the element of self-questioning that it might encourage, and how to address those who injure us along the way.

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