Williams plays the part beautifully, and her transition from shy and timid to predatory and terrifying is very believable. Even when she commits truly horrific crimes, you still feel a degree of sympathy towards her.
William’s must be commended for not taking the predictable route and showing the inner turmoil her character must be going through; as an actor, it must be tempting to give in to that emotion and to let the tears flow, but Julia keeps her composure. Her anguish is instead implied; her pain is on the inside, at least for the beginning. This is an interesting take, and by internalising Julia’s emotional transformation, it keeps you wondering what is making her tick. Sometimes not knowing what is going on in someone’s head is scarier than having the answers.
The way rape is handled as a plot device says a lot about the maturity of the film. Julia’s moment of violation is not over-emphasised; it is set up very quickly—the focus here is Julia’s development as a result of the rape, not the incident itself. This is a relief, as prolonged and violent rape scenes for the sake of shock are not something cinema needs more of.
After starting a new ‘therapy’ that involves killing and castrating random men, Julia finds that her hunger for vengeance is not quite sated. Against her enigmatic doctor’s wishes, she tracks down her rapists to get true revenge. This is where things get a little frustrating.
The premise of the film is that this strange man gets women to get over their violation by killing random men, not their rapists, as one might assume. His motives and character in general are kept very secretive throughout the film, and unfortunately there is not much pay-off. All the smoke and mirrors amount to a character that is really just a plot device with little value. Granted, the focus of the film is on Julia, but at the end of it, the character of the doctor just felt like one that deserved to be expanded upon more.
Julia scatters moments of horror throughout a heart-breaking and disturbing story of someone torn apart and violated. By creating a character that you both root for and are disturbed by, the film succeeds in both demonstrating the effect rape can have on someone, as well as the dangerous places the path to revenge can take you.
Review: Julia (2014)
By Ross Wildish - 23rd September 2014
Rape is an act that is often used in film for nothing more than shock value, or to develop the story of what is commonly a white male. Very rarely do we get a film that explores the effects of rape on a victim, and how such an act of violation can scar them. Julia attempts to take this very serious matter and explore it from the perspective of a victim.
Julia Shames (Ashley C. Williams) falls into a deep depression after being drugged and gang-raped, but is offered a chance to reclaim herself by Sadie (Tahyna Tozzi) and her mysterious master. Julia begins a downward spiral in the search for revenge.
Though definitely a sympathetic character, Julia’s desire for vengeance soon surpasses what could be deemed ‘acceptable’, and we are quickly shown a woman twisted by a traumatic event into something equally horrible.