On this episode we discuss how two films, Una and the recent Slalom, depict the trauma of childhood sexual assault. We discuss the films’ messy navigation of depiction and questions of empathy and catharsis.
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This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, Associate Editor Brett Pardy, and staff writer Lena Wilson.
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On This Episode
- Why we paired these films (5:08)
- Explaining our snarky tone as coping mechanism and the challenges of discussing the difficult subject of childhood sexual assault (8:27)
- Jennifer Fox’s The Tale (10:50)
- Why do we watch so many films about terrible things that happen to women? (23:15)
- Una (30:02)
- Slalom (61:30)
Una (Benedict Andrews, 2017)
Based on David Harrower’s Olivier Award Winning play Blackbird, which he has also adapted for the screen, Una is about reckoning with the past by trying to break the silence. Una confronts Ray about their relationship, both angry and accusing and tender and needy. As an adult, she can understand and say the things she didn’t when they were in each other’s lives, but she’s also susceptible to trying to rewrite history, now that she’s old enough to consent. Because things ended between them so abruptly — Ray went to prison and Una was told he was disgusted with himself — there are lots of blanks to fill in their memories. They may be toxic to one another, but they’re also the only two people who went through this ordeal together.
Read the rest of Alex’s review
Una is available on VOD and to stream on Prime and Hoopla in Canada and the US and MUBI in the UK.
Slalom (Charlene Favier, 2020)
Charlène Favier’s Cannes-labelled directorial debut, Slalom, is a tense pas-de-deux between a 15-year-old professional skiing star, Lyz (Noée Abita), and her coach, Fred (Jérémie Renier). Like Una, the film is a complex exploration of the dynamics of an abusive relationship between a man in power and a child in his charge. Though it deals with sexual abuse, the film is most interested in Lyz’s perspective, avoiding judgement or sensationalism, while making Fred human if reprehensible.
Effectively abandoned by her mother, who has accepted a job in another city, Lyz begins training at a school designed for professional skiers under Fred’s guidance. Living alone in her apartment, and without any real support network at her new school, Lyz initially struggles with Fred’s gruff manner. But when she starts succeeding on the slopes, he warms up to her, giving her special attention, training, and encouragement.
Read the rest of Alex’s review
Slalom opens April 9 in virtual cinemas in Canada and the US.
Show notes for Una and Slalom
- Read Lena’s New York Times article on rape-revenge films
- Read Lena’s New York Times review of Violation
- Read Alex’s interview with Una director Benedict Andrews
- Read Alex’s interview with The Tale director Jennifer Fox
- Read Justin Smith’s interview with Genèse director Philippe Lesage
- Listen to Lena guest on our episode about Paddington and Paddington 2