I do not know if I personally get ready for films like this or if I should. Filmmakers, especially documentarians, use their medium for distressing things. So there’s a 50/50 chance that I would spend time doing something that I’d rather not do.
A woman (co-director Attiya Khan) who reunites with the ex-boyfriend, Steve, who abused her. She’s doing this to heal herself from her past, and perhaps to share that process with him. And that healing has a lot to do with him admitting to what he did to her physically.
The film begins with a disclaimer. Part of said disclaimer advises the audience to “Please exercise care and compassion for yourself and any other viewers”. Art loses its intent as the artists releases it into the world. But this is fine, taking back artistic intent in this kind of movie.
Nonetheless, I have to look into how the film frames both Attiyah and Steve. Sometimes they’re facing each other, as if we’re eavesdropping into a private conversation. Which we are. There are times when the camera zeroes in on Steve, making that tension more palpable.
I wonder how much credit we should be giving Steve for appearing on camera. Is he brave or are most abusers just cowards? It’s the latter. And what kinds of feelings do we expect from Steve as he admits to his past? And despite the disclaimer, intrusive thoughts still came to mind.
Like really, him? He doesn’t appear like someone who’d abuse his partner. If anything, he looks too weak to be one. Which makes abuse more pernicious because an abuser can literally be anyone. This film makes its audience unlearn and relearn abuse. That makes this essential viewing.
A Better Man is screening at Saturday, August 5th at 5:00 PM at Cineplex Mississauga.