A Conversation Starter: Our Review of ‘Bystanders’ at CFF 2023

Posted in CFF 2023, Movies by - March 29, 2023
A Conversation Starter: Our Review of ‘Bystanders’ at CFF 2023

How would you react if a person you thought you knew well was accused of rape? Would it make a difference if he was your roommate, ex-boyfriend, crush or brother? Bystanders takes a look at this very delicate topic. And while the result can be tough to watch at times, it’s also a conversation that many people have had to have in their lifetime.

It’s spring break, and a group of childhood friends have gathered together at a lake side cottage to unwind and catch up. Many of them have their own surprises and secrets. But it’s Justin (Taylor Olson) who has the biggest one of them all. He’s been accused of raping his ex-girlfriend and is on the verge of being put on academic probation at med-school. His secret shatters the friendships he spent a lifetime building, leaving them with a difficult decision to make. Should they support the person they’ve known their entire life, or should they speak out against him?

Bystanders feels like a stage play.  Not that this is a bad thing, but it does detract from the need of seeing it on the big screen. There are a couple of problems with the film however. The first is that each of the friends represent a different ideal in terms of how to deal with the issue. In real life this particular group of friends wouldn’t get along. And that is obvious when they start arguing over what to do. The other issue comes from a scene near the end of the movie. Not to ruin anything, but this scene confuses the issue more than helping resolve anything.

Bystanders has great acting and has an interesting premise that people do need to talk about. But it could have been presented just a little better.


  • Release Date: 3/29/2023
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While Roderick has only been writing movie reviews for a relatively short time, he's been a fan of film for as long as he can remember. It's a love affair that started when he saw Star Wars at a drive-in theatre in Kitchener when he was four years old. In the past decade he's fulfilled his dream of interviewing celebrities, attending red carpets events at festivals such as TIFF and writing reviews for outlets such as Realstylenetwork.com. He's always on the hunt for the next big thing to hit the screen.
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