The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD] - VERDICT | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD] - VERDICT

verdict review
A woman finds herself and her daughter in danger when the authorities refuse to take action against her violently abusive husband.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Raymund Ribay Gutierrez

Starring: Max Eigenmann, Kristoffer King, Dolly De Leon, Perry Dizon, Jordhen Suan

verdict poster

Imagine hitting someone. Like, actually curling your hand into a fist and moving it with your arm with velocity designed to make the intended recipient of the propelled hand feel thudding pain. It is just so weird, the very concept of harming someone. In its first measure of sophistication, writer/director Raymund Ribay Gutierrez’s stunning Verdict takes the cruel absurdity, the simple wrongness of violence for granted. With its intimate focus on the experience of abused wife Joy (Max Eigenmann) as she attempts to bring her bullying husband Dante (Kristoffer King) to, as she puts it, ‘justice’ through the cramped halls of the Filipino justice system, Verdict is a pitiless, and un-sensationalised, examination of a barely-there legal system. A jurisdiction which is seemingly weighted against the dynamics of civilised society which most of us would be able to take as a given.

verdict review

We open in the narrow confines of Joy and Dante’s flat, which they share with their six year old daughter, Angel. Here and throughout, DOP Joshua Reyles’ camera is incredible. With the sort of handheld, flickering horror that characterised something like 28 Days Later, we are fully immersed in the violent action as Dante, who is a small-time drug dealer, returns home in a bad mood and proceeds to abuse Joy, first verbally and then physically. It is obvious that this is a regular occurrence, with ominous shots of clocks and Joy’s haggard face making it clear that she is living on the edge. This time, however, Dante manages to accidentally clip Angel, propelling Joy to self-defence using a kitchen knife, which she lashes out with to cut Dante’s arm across one of his stupid gang tattoos.

verdict review

The filmmaking of this scene is so vivid, so agitated and urgent, with the violence depicted in the similarly clumsy way in which it occurs in real life, it is all you can do not to leap into the screen and intervene. Which is more than can be said for the other denizens of the Tondo District where Joy lives. Her neighbours just dispassionately watch as she escapes, bloody and bruised, to get to the police with Angel. In this early sequence, Verdict establishes its unflinching tone, but also its technical virtuosity. From the challenging verisimilitude of the violence at the start, to the low-key orchestration of piled in extras and outside shots, Gutierrez creates a world that is living and breathing; like its threat of violence, the sense of place in Verdict is inescapable.

verdict review

We segue across months to the trial against Dante, via periodic examples of the challenges Joy has to contend with. As she sits there with a broken nose in the police station, the possibility that she is lying is broached. The neighbours who witnessed the attack are reluctant to testify, possibly due to potential repercussions from Dante, but most likely because they know the prosecution is a lost cause. The court room is a sweaty, pressure cooker of an office: the constantly fluttering fans of the ‘gallery’ and the phatic hum of murmurs and reactions from the court, make these scenes aggravating to watch: how can any sort of clear-headed justice be enacted in these cramped quarters? In the film canon of women enacting retribution for violence, Verdict is a sobering tonic to the cathartic pleasures of rape revenge movies, where sluggish, and obscured due process is almost as painful and beleaguering as the crime itself.

Verdict is on UK/ROI VOD from March 12th.

2021 film reviews