Take Back the Night, 2021.
Directed by Gia Elliot.
Starring Emma Fitzpatrick, Angela Gulner, Jennifer Lafleur, Sibongile Mlambo, and Jess Varley.
After being viciously attacked, a woman turns vigilante to try and find the monster that did it, all the while trying to justify her actions to doubting authorities.
In Take Back the Night, Jane (Emma Fitzpatrick) is a young and successful artist who, after an evening of partying at an exhibition launch, is violently attacked by a mysterious creature whilst walking home. Reporting the incident to the police and to her sister (Angela Gulner), Jane discovers that her story about being sexually assaulted by a ‘monster’ doesn’t get the reaction she was expecting.
Whilst her story about being attacked is believed, her closest confidants and the police start to doubt the credibility in her story about clawed monsters attacking people. However, as the attacks continue and her story isn’t believed, Jane posts her story online she discovers that she may not be alone in her theories about monsters, and her paranoia deepens as the attacks continue.
Using the rape/revenge idea as a framework but dismissing the usual tropes altogether, Take Back the Night is a highly charged commentary on sexual assault and the continuing suffering that victims go through after the event, from not being believed to having their whole history brought up as possible evidence against them should it come to court.
Jane is a character with a troubled childhood involving a mother with mental illness, a posh sister who thinks she is above Jane’s more bohemian lifestyle, and a previous drugs charge that was little more than possession of a small amount of weed (but that doesn’t matter in the eyes of the law – it’s a drugs charge), and her current lifestyle involves her doing all the things that young, free and single people do when they go out of an evening.
It also comes to light that on the evening of the attack she drank heavily, took drugs and had sex with a married stranger in the bathroom of the venue she was at – details she did not disclose to the police – but is Jane a bad person? Do those things mean that Jane deserved to be assaulted on her way home? These are the types of questions that Jane, taking control of her anger and trying to do the job the police don’t seem too bothered about, asks as the story unfolds about who her attacker is.
And of course, there is the social media element, where Jane is able to piece together what is going on with the help of random strangers, and this is played up in a flurry of hashtags and ‘R U OK, HUN?’-type presentations, highlighting the fact that Jane’s only salvation is coming from the hotbed of sin and fake news that is the internet and not from those closest to her, the people she should be able to trust the most.
All of this metaphor and allegory is very well intentioned and extremely ambitious, but director Gia Elliot’s execution is a bit muddy overall. The gritty, low budget look implies one thing, but the movie is very restrained in what is shows – for example, there are no men, or at least no men that we get a full look at, and Jane is the only character that is given a name – and there are perhaps more issues that get addressed here than is probably necessary to come up with anything conclusive; sort of just throwing statements out there and seeing what sticks, rather than exploring one or two in any great detail.
But the performance from Emma Fitzpatrick as Jane is remarkably good, and there are certainly points raised here that shouldn’t need to be an issue in this day and age, but ultimately the metaphors and messages are hammered home a little too heavily for general viewing, as the inclusion of several visual essays interpreting the various messages of the film that make up the entirety of the special features attests to.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★