Victim(s)

Brutal. That was so much darker than I thought it was gonna be.

It starts with the murder of a teenager and the stabbing of two of his friends by a fellow classmate. In Malaysia teenagers stabbing each other actually makes headline news, and the intro follows the story blow up, as people call for the death penalty to be implemented despite the offender’s age. His mother is vilified for raising a monster, and they are slated as a middle class family trying to buy their way out from under the law.

It also follows the mother of the victim as she tries to come to terms with her loss, trying to hold onto his memory. It is when she goes through his laptop that the movie begins afresh and you see the reasons and events that led up to the tragedy.

It’s not until I was watching Victim(s) that I realised how low I had set my expectations. I had been expecting a straightforward, “stabbing people is bad, but people usually have their reasons for stabbing people, and it’s a shame our youth get wasted in this way”. The movie itself was far more visceral, drawing heavily on toxic masculinity, misogyny, homophobia, class, and every kind of abuse. It is not simply a bullying movie. And it pulls back from the school setting to the present-day scenes to show the same bile and bloodthirst in the way adults interact over the story.

The three main characters are the murderer, his female friend, and the boy that was killed. Each in their own way is shown to be a victim without ever excusing or condoning the terrible decisions they make, or minimising the impact they have on others. Both the mothers of the killer and the killed are shown coping in the wake of this devastation and at a total loss to understand why it happened. But can any revelation of the truth now stop the juggernaut of hatred and outrage bearing down on those involved?

Ooft.