Throwback Thirty – The Accused (1988)

220px-accused_ver25_star_rating_system_3_and_a_half_stars Today was the end of my working week and I’m absolutely exhausted. I got home from work and just collapsed. So, my aim is to get through this review and get tucked up in bed at an obscenely early time. Especially as this was such an emotionally draining film so I can’t imagine that writing this is going to be the most fun I’ve ever had. I’d heard about this film before this week, obviously, but I’d never seen it. As I’ve made perfectly clear on this blog, I’m very wary of the way sexual assault is used in the entertainment industry. There are countless rants available that make my point very clear. It’s a difficult and important subject that needs to be handled correctly. When it isn’t it has the potential to damage so many people. So, going into this film I was already anxious about the key scene and how it would depict the event that is so key to the film’s narrative. But, given this is the film that won Jodie Foster an Oscar for Best Actress, I didn’t feel as though I could ignore it in this series.

The Accused shows us the chain of events that takes place after a young woman is gang  raped by 3 men in the back room of a bar whilst a group of revellers cheer the guys on. The young woman, Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster), manages to escape her attackers and report the assault to the police. After she has been examined, Sarah is introduced to assistant district attorney, Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis), who has been assigned the case. Unsure about Sarah’s ability to stand up in court, Murphy agrees to a plea bargain that includes jail time but for a much less serious crime. Upon seeing the effect that this has on Sarah, Kathryn starts proceedings to prosecute the witnesses for solicitation and give Sarah her chance to tell her story in court.

The statistics concerning sexual assault are horrifying and in 1988, according to the numbers at the end of The Accused, in the United States in 1988 a rape was reported every 6 minutes. On top of that, 1 in 4 victim are attacked by multiple assailants. This is the message that The Accused is fighting to get across to its audience. This is a story that is concerned with the victim herself and how this one incident affected her life. The rape itself, shown only towards the end of the film, is merely a Jodie Foster was awarded an Academy Award for her role and there is no doubt she does a great job playing Sarah.

We see Sarah turned from victim to being accused of allowing the situation arise. As soon as Kathryn finds out she was arrested for drugs charges when she was younger and that she spent the night drinking and smoking weed, Sarah becomes an unreliable witness. The question suddenly arises about how much she lead the men on and how willing she was to participate. It’s a narrative that is highlighting the issue of victim blaming and the assumptions made about women who have been raped. As the narrative goes on, Kathryn stops seeing Sarah for her worth in the case and as a real person. She sees how much she has let her client down, which pushes her to gain some kind of justice for her.

The Accused is hardly easy or light watching. It is an often horrible and emotional portrayal of a huge problem in our society. The rape itself is handled fairly carefully for the most part. Filmed in such a way that the audience experience their own feelings of entrapment and discomfort. Considering it’s such a heavy topic, the film handles its subject matter in a controlled way and tells an important story. It doesn’t try to gloss over the facts or give everything a sparkly Hollywood ending. It’s not the kind of thing you’ll want to see again and again but, if you haven’t, it’s worth a look.

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