Written and directed by Matthew A. Brown
Starring Ashley C. Williams, Tahyna Tozzi, Jack Noseworthy, Joel de la Fuente, Cary Woodworth, Darren Lipari, Ryan Cooper, Brad Koed
A neon-noir revenge thriller centring on Julia Shames, who after suffering a brutal trauma, falls prey to an unorthodox form of therapy to restore herself.
Matthew A. Fox writes and directs quite an effective rape revenge thriller as if it was seen through the eyes of Nicholas Winding Refn. It features very little dialogue, allowing for the visuals to tell the story and its central performance by Ashley C. Williams is mesmerizing. But the film is pretty standard and apart from a few flourishes of brilliance, there is very little on show here.
What does set Julia apart from most rape revenge movies is that it never fully shows the crime taking place, instead blacking us out at the beginning and then giving us glimpses at various points. It feels as though we are seeing this movie through the eyes and memories of Julia herself which can be very impactful. The lack of dialogue also means we’re forced to watch and engage with Julia’s growth and her journey as a character as opposed to sitting back and being told what is happening. It’s also a very quiet movie, which really works to its benefit.
Williams is a real star as the shy, unassuming Julia and she captures the character’s change from a pure, almost virginal, innocent girl to an unstoppable, revenge-fuelled woman. While she does have a physical change, she doesn’t rely on this to tell her story. Her performance is so subtle and beautiful that it really makes you want to see her win out in the end, even though you know what she is doing is morally wrong.
Julia does ask interesting questions about how to respond to being a victim of rape. Julia herself does not go to the police and instead falls into a drink induced depression, until she discovers a doctor who gives her “training” on how to fully exact her revenge. But in doing so, she is effectively moving away from being a victim to a slave. She has a certain set of rules she has to abide to and if she doesn’t, then she will be punished. Julia is clearly not alone and isn’t the only one in this “training” but is it the right move to make? Is killing your attackers, cutting out their eyes and slicing off their penises real empowerment? These dramatic actions do make her character progression all the more interesting and it’s this new dynamic that does set Julia apart from other rape revenge films.
Sadly though, as her training reaches its climax, Julia becomes very generic. The movie moves from being an interesting take on the genre to every rape revenge movie you’ve ever seen, albeit with a slightly artsy sheen. The film does feel different at the beginning, but by the end it can’t help but feel “samey”.
To the movie’s credit, Julia is a very powerful film and it does raise a lot questions about rape culture. The cast are all phenomenal with Williams carrying the entire weight of the movie on her shoulders without fault and Brown’s direction, while a bit pretentious, is very good. It’s a lot better than the I Spit on Your Grave remakes and it’s a lot smarter than the original on which they were based, but it’s also fairly forgettable. Arthouse movie fans will love it, but anyone else might find it a touch tedious.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is the Deputy Editor of Flickering Myth and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.