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March 12, 2018 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Women in Film: (For Women’s History Month)

TW: sexual assault

The Old: Into the Forest (2015)

4/5 stars

By Emma Maguire

The saying, “this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper,” seems especially relevant in regards to this film. Set just after the destruction of the world’s power grid, Into the Forest takes us to the end of the world through the eyes of two women. Nell and Eva are two sisters stranded in the middle of a forest when the power fails. Once their father gets killed in an accident, they have to make it on their own.

Into the Forest is not your “standard” end-of-the-world film. There are no explosions and very little violence. Most of it is just pure survival. It’s a more-indie, wankier version of the apocalypses we know and love.

While parts of this film are gruesome (see the warning above), it depicts femininity honestly and without prejudice. It is so rare to see women portrayed on screen grossly, without makeup, or sans a veneer. Into the Forest gives us a reality of an apocalypse, without all of the flashy parts.

The New: Red Sparrow (2017)

3/5 stars

By Meg Doughty


Whatever you do, don’t go into Red Sparrow pumped for another Atomic Blonde. The premise of the unstoppable female spy is tempting feminist bait. But I assure you as a woman and feminist – difficult, sickening, disturbing, and ultimately desensitizing are the words I would use to describe Red Sparrow.

Dominika, Jennifer Lawrence’s character, begins and remains literally a sexual object, who is emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by men (including her uncle). She is controlled through her body, told to use her sexuality as a weapon – perpetuating the idea that a woman gains power only when she uses her sexuality to manipulate men. She is not shown to be given any field training in combat or self defense. She is tortured because she is not believed. Throughout the film she changes her appearance to appeal to whoever she needs to, because that is what she has been taught.

You gals out there at this point might be thinking, “hang on! This all sounds just like life”, and you’d be right. In a twisted and dramatised way this film shows the plethora of sh*t that women have dealt with, and continue to deal with, in everyday life. It also made me think that Jennifer Lawrence was smart to take the role.

Dominika’s experience reflects not only the experience of women, but also Lawrence’s own experience in Hollywood. We are all aware of the private photos leaked of Lawrence, and that as a young actress she was pushed into a naked line up for a role, and has been asked to lose weight for roles many a time. Lawrence has been vocal about how she was empowered by the nude scenes in Red Sparrow after the photos incident. This was the redeeming quality of the film, it was a taking back for Jennifer Lawrence, which is fantastic. As a film, however, it wasn’t enough to justify the level of onscreen violence.

Then the credits came, and it all made sense. Male directors, writers, and producers have made great stuff, but they aren’t the ones who should be telling the stories of women’s perpetual sexual (or other) abuse. In the heat of the Me Too and Times Up movement, this film just came out a bit tone-deaf, and the marketing is even worse; being called a darkly seductive spy thriller” by 20th Century Fox’s Facebook marketing team.

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