Review | ‘She Said’ tells the story of the journalists that sparked #MeToo

She Said | Dir: Maria Schrader | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

Warning: This review contains mentions of sexual violence.

There was a time, not that long ago, when men in positions of power could intimidate young career-conscious women into sexual situations against their will and even rape them, and these women had no voice to protest, to bring the person to account or to demand change to a damaged system.

While pervasive, this predatory sexual harassment and even sexual assault has been difficult to tackle because powerful men have powerful lawyers, endless financial backing and the support of a “system protecting abuse”. The victims are left with shame, distress, fear and, in many cases, shattered lives.

The victims also have gag orders so when New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) join forces to investigate powerful Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein, it was difficult to find women who were willing to go on the record and have their names attached to the claims.

This film powerfully enacts the behind-the-scenes work of the six months that went into the newspaper article that eventually brought 82 women to come forward against Weinstein and seeded the #MeToo movement in 2017.

The film exposes the lasting emotional trauma and turmoil experienced by some of the women as a result of their experiences, mixing the present-time interviews with the tenacious journalists with flashbacks to their younger selves at the time of the assaults.

It must be noted this is not a salacious film that recreates the actual assaults for our viewing pleasure. It concentrates on the women, depicting the aftermath of the assaults, the distress and the recollections of how lives were forever changed.

As well as gasps of disbelief at some of the statements made by the men-at-the-top, there was a deeply felt emotional response to the depiction of, not only the struggles of those assaulted, but the struggles of the two journalists trying to keep their lives together.

Among all the dead-ends, unanswered telephone calls and doors slammed in their faces, the journalists amassed a huge amount of off the record accounts before getting the breakthrough from a couple of brave women agreeing to be quoted in order to save others.

This origin film cleverly centres on the women, with the only scene toward the end of the film, when Weinstein is given a right of reply before the article is published, just showing the back of his head. The camera focuses on Twohey and her emotions as the shadowy figure, surrounded by his legal support, isn’t given a voice.

Lezly Herbert

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