Films within the science fiction genre often deal with topics that attempt to make the audience think deeper. When done well, it allows filmmakers to take us out of the present reality and into a potential future, for better or worse. Directed by Ray Raghavan, Violentia is a sci-fi feature that presents some interesting ideas but falls short in almost every regard.
The movie tells the story of Dr. Adam Anderson, a man that must apply his revolutionary memory-based technology to a government program that wishes to use it to cure violence. David Lewis plays the aforementioned scientist with Emily Holmes joining him as colleague Dr. Rachel Porter, Mackenzie Gray as project organiser Senator Edward Frost and Tammy Gillis rounding out the cast as Dr. Anderson’s wife, Marie.
The films biggest strength lies in the concepts it wants to establish. It tries to position the characters in a relatable world and proposes some pertinent “what if?”questions, such as “what if we could understand the root of violent behaviour?”. There is a Black Mirror-esque quality that sets up the movie’s through line rather well. Unfortunately, this intriguing foundation is crushed by the negatives that plague the rest of the picture.
Running at 85 minutes in length, the films largest problems lie with the script. The driving narrative is extremely disjointed, failing to develop the characters we are supposed to care about. The time we do spend with Dr. Anderson and his family is afflicted by clunky dialogue and uneven acting. When it comes to the movie’s science, we are given terms like “nanobots”, as if these buzzwords would fill the plot holes that appear throughout. With a late-stage plot twist that fizzles out with the films close, you will be left wondering if the writers started with this point in mind, struggling to create the story before it.
Making use of a clearly minimal budget, the frustrations are not found with the technical aspects. The movie is shot and edited in a serviceable way, showing us the potential that could have been used. With better writing, this may have been a breakthrough opportunity.
Violentia will leave most with a feeling of apathy. It is an unsatisfactory watch that simply limps to its conclusion. The truth is, independent cinema has many limitations. Filmmakers have to struggle in order to create a fraction of their vision. While some are able to produce gems, Violentia is an example of a small movie that wants to be far more than it is.