This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn't exist.
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say will and can be used against you in a court of law”. You undoubtedly heard those sentences before, even if you haven't binge-watched Law and Order or CSI. It's been used every time a suspect is taken into custody on suspicion of murder, kidnapping, etc. What's less known, though, is when and why this was implemented. The sentences – altogether known as the Miranda Rights – were first introduced in 1966 when the U.S. Supreme Court resided over the historic rape case of Patricia ‘Trish' Weir. Her abuser was called Ernesto Miranda, and he was the first accuser who was read those rights.
To ensure that we never forget the ordeal Patricia had to go through, how courageous she was to stand up to Miranda and how her court case changed the nation forever, director Michelle Danner (Hello Herman) is now bringing her story to the big screen in the riveting, brutally honest and star-studded Miranda's Victim.
The movie opens in 1966 when we meet Patricia ‘Trish' Weir (Abigail Breslin), who's at that point a wife and a mother when she hears the latest news about her rape case. The suspect now has the right to remain silent and even has a right to an attorney. This news triggers painful memories for Trish, and that's when we return in time. Danner takes you back to three years ago when Trish still lived with her overprotective mother, Zeola (Mireille Enos) and caring sister, Ann (Emily VanCamp). She's the sweet, innocent girl who always does what she has been told. One night, on her way home from work, she's been assaulted by Ernesto Miranda (Sebastian Quinn). Emotionally broken and physically shattered, Trish returns home, but sadly, she doesn't get the support a rape victim should get.
While Ann believes her, her mother doesn't. Zeola thinks it was Trish's fault because she might have undone one more button than usual and only thinks about saving the family image. The mother puts her head in the sand and even asks Trish not to talk about her trauma publicly; otherwise, she might be damaged goods for any potential husband. It was a conservative time, and women had no place in society besides being good mothers and (house)wives. Despite only being 18, Trish feels the pressure to find a man, and while keeping her trauma to herself for a good while, she bravely stands up with the help of her attorney, Lawrence Turoff (Luke Wilson), and sister Ann. Sadly, this has tough, abusive and unbearable consequences for her.
During our interview, Danner told us that when reading this script, this movie was something that she wanted to be part of straight away. We can see why. While George Kolber, Richard Lasser (Heroes of the Golden Mask) and J. Craig Stiles (Dreams I Never Had) their story is set in the 60s, it still feels incredibly alive. It addressed the falling of the legal system, the lack of support rape victims need, the excessive burden-of-proof attached to a sexual assault case, and the amount of victim blaming. If the Weir case had happened today, it would undoubtedly be classified as a Me Too case.
The director and writers are telling Trish's story from multiple sides to ensure that this movie has the most significant emotional impact on the audience. Trish's perspective is the most gripping one, but hearing and seeing how Zeola doesn't believe and support her daughter makes our blood run cold. It's just maddening knowing that this still happens worldwide. The stunning production design by Rick Butler (“Peep”) and Lily Guerin (“A Dream Beyond the Dark”) transports you back in time, but the story itself could have easily taken place in this modern day and age.
Before becoming a celebrated filmmaker, Danner was an acting coach, and when watching this movie, it becomes clear that she still has an eye for selecting the best performers. Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) carries this movie with a very nuanced, emotional and heartbreaking performance. She recently won a well-deserved award for best actress during the Accolade Competition for this impeccable acting. Enos (World War Z) gives an honest and emotional portrayal of her on-screen mother, who doesn't believe her daughter and only thinks about the image and society's thoughts. Their family is completed by a terrific VanCamp (Captain America: Civil War) as the caring, headstrong and supporting Ann. Sutherland (Pride & Prejudice) was one of Danner's first choices, and it's crystal clear why she was so eager to have him on board. He gives a piercing and impeccable performance as Judge Wren.
The movie concludes with the alarming message that for every 1,000 sexual assaults in the U.S., only five result in a criminal conviction. To ensure that more rapists are convicted, we need to hear and see more gripping stories like Trish's, and therefore it's extremely important to catch Miranda's Victim and its A-list cast while you can.
Miranda's Victim is out now in US cinemas and on demand. UK release date TBC.