In Violet, her feature length directorial debut, Justine Bateman blesses the screen with an incredibly thought provoking glimpse into the life of Violet Calder (Olivia Munn). Violet, a seemingly successful and high-functioning woman, lives her life in fear. Bending to the will of the voice inside her head, Violet limits herself in both her career and personal life.
Bateman, who is not only the director but also the writer and producer of this piece, uses text overlay to let us in on Violet’s inner dialogue. The text quickly reveals her intense negative self talk. Violet seems broken inside and yearns to feel “normal”.
Violet struggles with toxic family relationships. Having previously lost her father, and never having a good relationship with her mother, she distances herself from her family. It’s clear that her family doesn’t understand her or her way of life. They label her as some ‘big shot Hollywood type’, and cannot wrap their heads around why she is so isolated from the family. It’s almost as if Violet is struggling with her inner child during this time, not knowing whether she should do certain things because that’s what she’s been programmed to do, or embrace her adult way of thinking.
In her career, Violet feels indebted to the one who “discovered” or “made” her. It takes no time to see that Violet is very talented in her field. She is knowledgeable and has leadership qualities. But imposter syndrome kicks in and Violet often doesn’t believe that her voice matters or that she deserves to have a seat at the table.
Throughout the film, some of the text discusses Violet’s skin. Violet clearly has her walls up and it’s like her skin is her protective barrier. When Violet begins to change, she sheds her skin and is more exposed and vulnerable. But also, and more importantly, free. We read along as Violet’s skin gets damaged by the words and actions of others, but is strengthened again as she begins to stand up for herself and make choices that benefit her rather than others.
This film normalizes the fact that it’s okay to grow, change, and be selfish in order to do what’s best for yourself. It is relatable and important. Despite the more despondent tone of the film, I felt quite hopeful at the end. It’s a reminder to trust our instincts. It’s okay to say no and speak your mind. We don’t always have to censor ourselves in fear of the response of others.
Violet is now playing at TIFF ’21.
Listen below to my interview with Justine Bateman here!