Up until recently hazing has been viewed as a typically harmless rite of passage for loads of young people participating in sports teams and college. It has been brought to light that hazing can be dangerous or not as harmless as we believed. Young people have been assaulted – both physically and sexually – sometimes to the point of death while undergoing hazing. Here is a film, written by Saturday Night Live alum Siobhan Fallon Hogan and directed by Vibeke Muasya (Lost in Africa), which addresses this issue. Head on!
A powerful film based on the premise that hell hath no fury like a mother seeking revenge for the loss of her child. Part of many a young person’s college experience involves joining a sorority or fraternity. It gives them a sense of belonging in often huge institutions comprised of thousands of students. They are sometimes away from home for the first time in life and are just looking for their “pack”. The unfortunate part is that the pack mentality sometimes takes over from common sense or even right and wrong. What ensues are occasional tragedies brought on by senseless acts performed on defenseless young people.
Sending her son off to college is a sad but happy time for mother, Barbara O’Brien (Siobhan Fallon Hogan – Men in Black, We Need to Talk About Kevin), whose life revolves around her family. Jimmy (Jay Jay Warren – appeared in episodes of The McCarthy’s and Bosch) is off to college. Once there he decides to rush a fraternity. What should be a fun time for him in which he slowly becomes an adult turns tragic.
This leaves his parents, Barbara and Jim (Robert Patrick – from television’s Scorpion), crushed. Heartbroken and frustrated by the authorities lack of action, Barbara decides to take matters into her own hands. This leads to her traveling across the United States recording other mothers who have lost their sons in the same way. She wants to prove that the university is liable. During her time on the road she begins to see the depth of the corruption and cover up.
Feeling desperate, Barbara comes to the conclusion that the only way she is going to get justice is by seeking revenge on the person she sees as ultimately responsible for Jimmy’s death.
A powerful film with a a clear message regarding the tragedy of it all and how that can sometimes snowball into further violence. Or desire for revenge. Good acting, especially by Robert Patrick and Siobhan Fallon Hogan, prop up the story. Fallon Hogan’s performance is eye catching in that she brings plenty of sensitivity to her character. Definitely not a one dimensional portrayal. Director Muasya separates her film from others which have covered this subject by veering into thriller territory. Tension adds to the emotional impact of the tragedy. Plus she keeps thing rather realistic and does not venture into almost comedic violence when that crops up.
In an often visceral way we feel the impact of a tragic death has on other family members. How grief can propel one to do things they never would have otherwise. All the involved emotions are handled with sensitivity without becoming muted.
Based on a fictional story it, I am sure, hit home, unfortunately, for some out there. While I did largely enjoy the film what I was frustrated about was the lack of closure. It was left open ended with not as much revenge exacted as I had hoped for. Nothing seemed changed for the better at the end of it all. Like things were just going to return to the usual right afterwards.