Woman in Car: Searching for Safety in an Unsafe World

Woman in Car?tells the story of Anne (Helene Joy), a mother in Montreal who anxiously awaits her upcoming wedding. When her stepson Owen (Aiden Ritchie) returns home with his dazzling girlfriend, Anne senses the stability of her home begin to shake. As she begins to develop an obsession with the newcomer, Anne feels as though the privileged like that she has been living is increasingly threatened.

Written and directed by Vanya Rose, Woman in Car is complex thriller that digs under the infidelities and secrets of high society. With a slow-moving camera, Rose allows each scene to hold its (often uncomfortable) gaze. Like Anne herself, the viewer is not allowed to distance themselves from the tensions that bubble underneath the surface. By way of a crisp colour palette of whites and muted colours, Rose emphasizes the ?cleanliness? of this fragile world but also gives it a sense of malaise. 

What?s more, Rose?s camera work also makes it clear that this is a family that has secrets. Functioning as an eye peeking through cracks in the doorways, every sharp angle feels like a window behind the fa?ade of stability within their home. Sexual indiscretions, hints of murder and emptiness of the soul are all kept hidden for the sake of maintaining their social status. For her characters, keeping up the fa?ade feels like a better alternative than facing the truth about their lives and passions and Rose?s direction never lets us forget it.

Best known for her role as Dr. Julia Ogden in Canadian megahit, Murdoch Mysteries, Joy offers some solid work and she floods the screen with melancholy as the broken and brokenhearted Anne. There?s a deep-seeded sadness in her performance that shows her range as a performer. For a woman who yearns to be an Olympic archer, Anne?s life has missed the mark and we feel it in every scene. 

While?Woman?focuses itself primarily on the Anne?s family struggles, so too does it also explore the politics that come with privilege and wealth. In many ways, Anne is viewed as the ?black sheep? of her family, especially by head of the family, Charlotte. As a member of the cultural elite, Charlotte accepts Anne only due to her place in the family yet, at the same time, the relationship is tenuous at best. To her, Anne will always be seen as the other and is treated with a certain level of distance and disgust.

As a result, like the cold world in which she lives, Anne feels an emptiness inside.

It?s this tension that makes the film?s emphasis on the titular car so significant. As her only real possession, Anne?s car becomes a place of safety for her as well. Each time she enters the vehicle, she is looking for (and finds) some stability in an unstable world. (In some ways, it?s somewhat ironic that this sense of security comes through a vehicle which is often in motion itself.) With this in mind, the largest source of hope for Anne also becomes the most elusive. Trapped in an unhappy engagement, Anne wants to love and be loved yet the object of her affections remains forbidden. As such, she is faced with a choice: maintain the pretense for the sake of her family or pursue the one she loves for herself. Without question, love is the piece of her life that?s missing? but even that offers little security.

Operating on a slow burn, Rose weaves a narrative filled with surprise reveals and fueled by awkward glances. Though the world feels like one of privilege, the wealth covers a multitude of suffering within its characters. While love may be the answer to their ailing soul, Woman in Car points out that its pursuit can cause chaos as well.

To hear our interview with writer/director, Vanya Rose, click here.

Woman in Car is available in theatres beginning Friday, March 11th, 2022.

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