Victim ★★★ 3/4 TIFF 2022

Victim ★★★ 3/4 TIFF 2022

Vita Smachelyuk blows you away in Michal Blaško’s increasingly stressful Victim. Full of socio-political narratives, his film drives through the point that even the most well-intentioned of people can be forced into horrible positions—a great feature debut film.

Irina lives with her son Igor in a small Czech border town. When she discovers that three Romas have assaulted Igor, her whole world comes crashing down. As time goes on, Irina begins to spot inconsistencies in his story.

Jakub Medvecký has written a great script here for Victim, with each scene ramping up the tension to the possibility that her son has lied and led another group of immigrants into danger from society. Juggling the narrative that Irina is trying to keep her son safe from the incident, Medvecký also shows us immigrants’ battle in their new country. Irina and Igor being from Ukraine, have a fear of being deported for their actions or inactions continually hovering over their heads. Irina desperate to ensure that she obtains that treasured citizenship.

On the other side, we see how such an incident affects those of marginalised communities already present within a company, in this case, the Roma’s. Already they are unliked by those around them, like Irina and Igor living in a dilapidated high-rise. Still, when the accusation comes, they are put in an even worse position, stuck trying to defend themselves from all fronts as an already frazzled society takes further aim at them. By looking at both sides of the story, but through Irina’s eyes, we see how something small can rise up and destroy societies. By the film’s end, Irina is almost a shell of herself, the same as Igor. No one comes out of the situation in any positive way.

However, a script can only do so much, and with the top-notch performances in Victim, we have a cracker of a film. Vita Smachelyuk is an utter revelation here. Irina is a woman getting closer to the edge of her nerves as she tries to come to terms with what has happened to her son and then how to keep what her son has told her quiet when a mountain of interest, political and news comes her way. Smachelyuk is pitch perfect as our lead for this is quite the difficult role for the actress. However, she pulls it off with the greatest of ease and is a talent we need to see more of on-screen in prominent roles as she proves here that she can carry a heavy piece.

As we build and build to the family potentially being caught in their inconsistent story in Victim, Blaško has us thinking that the fuse that has been lit will finally create a horrible explosion. Instead, we get a finale that actually makes sense and, on an emotional level, is all the more tormenting for our characters.

By focusing the story on two different types of minorities who just want to be accepted, we can see how easy it is for it all to be thrown away. Victim is a continual gut punch of a film that is laser sharp in its direction.

★★★ 1/2

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