Friday, February 10, 2023

Miranda's Victim (2023) Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023


MIRANDA’S VICTIM was  Patricia “Trish” Weir who was kidnapped and raped by Ernesto Miranda. The case resulted in the warnings (you have the right to remain silent. You have a right to an attorney.) The story is largely told from the stand point of Weir who is buffeted by the system which  was supposed to protect her.

Text at the end of the film states that this is the first time that Weir’s story is being told.  Watching how things went down I kind of understand why that is. The system in 1963 really wasn’t set up to deal with rape victims with uncaring doctors with no bedside manner and cops who were gruff and looked at her suspiciously as if she had done anything wrong. Add to that the whole problem of how the police handled the case which ended up making her attacker a minor celebrity among criminals. Its no wonder that Weir didn’t want to talk about it.

As a document of what happened to the people involved in a landmark case this film is really good. As someone who has a day job in the legal field this film filled the details on something that is part of my everyday work. Even going back to my days in college when I was studying criminal law the story of the Miranda Warning was very cut and dried, with no hint of the people behind it other than the tale of Miranda’s demise in a fight after signing a card with the warnings on it.

As a film is a bit uneven.

The problem with the film is that the film feels a bit too formal. It feels like a movie. Some of the performances feel as if they were directed for effect rather than for reality. The doctor who examines Weir seems to be intentionally aiming to push out buttons of disbelief at how disconnected and uncaring he could be. Clearly the idea of examining a woman concerning a  rape is outside of his comfort zone but here it seems they are pushing it. The cops don’t feel real. Granted there is 60 years between the cops I deal with on a daily basis and the ones in the film, but one in the film seem to be too much into the Jack Webb Dragnet territory. They are stiff and formal, even when they are trying to talk to people.

At the same time the drama of the situation comes through. We feel for the woman at the center of it all.  We also see how this case created a legal precedent that is followed in many countries around the world. We bleed for Weir and what we went through. It’s a tough tale that shows how we wanted to protect women from harm and yet didn’t trust them when they said they were attacked. There is enough good here that I wish it felt a bit more natural in the telling.

Worth a look.

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