THANKS to social media our past is just a few clicks away.
In Louisa Fielden’s probing short film People You May Know, the connectivity of Facebook brings a woman named Emily (Aiysha Hart) face-to-face with ex-boyfriend James (Joesph Timms) who raped her 11 years ago. The result is a riveting, emotionally-charged 17-minute confrontation that looks at the ripple effects – or lack of them – that such a scarring incident has on the life of both victim and perpetrator.
Fielden’s script is absorbing. There are layers to each sentence as James uses warped, mental gymnastics to selfishly try and protect himself from the irreparable pain he has caused.
James shifts from defensive tones to accusatory lecturing as he blurts out blaming comments like ‘you didn’t say no’ and offers empty prerequisites such as: ‘I’m the first one to defend women’s rights’. He is a picture of destructive and misled masculinity, letting out tears as he refuses to accept responsibility for his awful crime.
Emily, on the other hand, is ready to unload the tortured, pent-up anguish she has been carrying for the last decade. She points out how his life has continued normally – marriage and a cosy profession – while her own has been ravaged by missed opportunities and promiscuity.
Unlike James’ buried-head-in-sand approach, Emily has been unable to escape his violation. She has even agonised over the potential causes for James’ behaviour, pointing to the murky views on consent that pornography can promulgate.
The film may be largely spent seated in a café, but the psychological and verbal intensity of People You May Know never eases. The public setting also leads to a brilliantly subtle moment when a waitress breaks up their heated interaction with a serving of muffins. Her entry leads James to slip on his friendly mask and – momentarily – cover the forceful side he has exposed to Emily. A delicate yet cutting touch from Fielden.
People You May Know is a potent and intelligent piece of film-making taken to another level by two superb performances from Hart and Timms. They give their all to this difficult subject matter and it pays off in ensnaring fashion.
This is a short film that covers a lot of impactful ground and cuts deep into an issue our society must continue to confront. Compelling viewing.