Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Woman (2011)

Riding a wave of controversy, including well-publicised screening walk outs at major festivals, Lucky McKee's The Woman is receiving the kind of response that Lars Von Trier's The Antichrist (2009) and the recent A Serbian Film gained.

The film opens as a continuation of  the film Offspring (2009) - also based on Jack Ketchum's novel - with a wild, feral creature (Pollyanna McIntosh - also in Offspring) that has lived all her life, undiscovered, in the deep mountainous areas of America. We then cut to a well to do all American family, father and mother, two daughters and a son. While the son (Zach Rand) is urged to keep practising his basketball skills, the daughters seem largely ignored and the eldest, Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter) is becoming more isolated in school, leading her teacher to think she's pregnant. The wife, Belle (Angela Bettis - a veteran of Mckee's films) keeps the house clean but is reticent to allow it to be used to entertain the family friends. Father, Chris (Sean Bridgers) is a successful lawyer whose hobby is hunting.
It's during one of his hunting trips in the woods he comes across the feral woman, bathing her injured stomach in the lake. Using his gun sight as a way to be voyeuristic, and attempting to keep out of sight he is drawn instantly to this untamed woman. After getting the family to pitch in to clean and sort the basement, he heads back out to the lake and captures the woman. Chained to the wall, he quickly learns she is not friendly when she bites the top off of one of his fingers. Punching her several times as a punishment, he just remarks "that is not civilised behaviour"
The family are introduced to their new "pet" and he tells them he will tame her and make her normal.
When Belle questions the ethics of keeping the woman like that, she is slapped across the face in an unflinchingly violent way by Chris.
It is clear the monster here is not the woman, but the man. In his controlling ways and misogyny he is pure evil and before long you are wishing for him to get his comeuppance. When the violence and gore begin - don't worry there's plenty of that - it is so sickening and brutal that it's almost understandable that people walked out, but it is not done just for the sake of it, this is family drama that is played out in many households that no one ever hears about. It's just they don't also have a wild woman in the cellar waiting to rip your insides out and eat them too. Apparently the arguments of many of the walkers were that this was an anti-woman film, if that's true, then they totally missed the point.

The main gripe I had with the film was the often inappropriate music that is played over some of the scenes. Sometimes the alt-rock lyrics complemented the visuals but for the most part it did not, but maybe this was intentional to make the viewing even more uneasy?
It's not a film you could recommend as a "good watch" but it's well made, and the fact it doesn't just go for the easy cliché of family in jeopardy from wild beast is good.
7 out of 10 but approach with caution.

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