Dir/scr: Mia Goldman. US. 2006. 98mins.
Debut film-maker Mia Goldman uses the intelligent andtroubling Open Window to explore the ramifications- physical, psychological and emotional - of a sexual assault upon a young woman.In the process, she denies the audience the visceral satisfaction of vengeance,opting instead for helplessness, defeat and inadequacy. It is also the more devastating,complicated and dramatically risky approach.
A highly regarded editor directingand writing her first feature, Goldman reveals a necessary sympathy and emotionalprecision towards the central story. Unfortunately, her film is hurt by an inexplicablysoft and too conventionally resolved ending, as well as the conception and playingof several key supporting characters.
Play for this low-budget feature,which premiered in Sundance's Spectrum section, is going to be limited to majordomestic arthouse markets, and it is unlikely to havemuch opportunity abroad. Rather its best market is likely to be with pay cable andDVD.
Izzy (Tunney) a young ambitiousphotographer, is violated in her studio next to the house she shares with her fiance, Peter (Australian actor Edgerton), a Los Angeles universityprofessor.
Goldman effectively utilisesthe architecture and clean, bright imagery of Southern California to conjure upa comfortable, orderly world, which is violently displaced following Izzy's sexual attack.
Goldman is direct and blunt instaging the hurt and pain of Izzy's assault, althoughshe largely restricts the most violent and troubling moments to off-camera, returningto the crime through flashbacks or nightmares that traumatize Izzy.
From the moment Izzy declines to cooperate with the police, the attack fracturesher relationship with Peter. Distracted by his own professional concerns, he feelsalienated and wounded, unable to communicate with his fianceeand denied intimacy or emotional support.
This is the strongest sectionof the film, aided immensely by Tunney, a gifted actresswith the knockout looks of a movie star but the lean, feral intensity of a characteractor.
Tunney is the smartest element of the film, and if Open Window lacks the necessary urgency andintensity from start to finish, it does at least offer a sustained, beautifullymeasured performance from her.
She is introduced as a highlycharged, sensual figure, until the attack leaves her literally floating away fromthe audience. From this point she projects a combination of shame and confusion,her pain and loneliness complicated by her difficult relationship with her mother(Shepherd).
Goldman interrupts the centralplot to weave in parallel strands about the relationships of children and parents- but it plays to diminishing retruns.
Overplayed and stuffed up, Shepard'smother is a cold portrait of vanity and narcissism ('I can't believe somethinglike this happened to me,' she says upon learning of the assault).
Rather the stronger, more effectivescenes involve Izzy's relationship with a sympatheticpsychologist (Knight). A group meeting, where she talks with other assault victims,is a far more lacerating dissection of the consequence of sexual violation.
Apart from Tunney, the film's central power comes from how Goldman leavesso many questions unanswered, from the Hitchcockian titleto the emotional response of her friends and the absence of a police investigation.
The ending is a particular crueldisappointment, betraying a great deal of the emotional subtlety and socialcomplication that preceded it. For shame: after giving so much of herself, RobinTunney deserved a stronger, tougher way out.
Thomas K Baradproduction
c/oWilliam Morris Independent
Thomas K Barad