Sunday, February 5, 2017

Movie Review: "The Witness" (2016)

Image Source
Movie"The Witness"
Director: James D. Soloman
Year: 2016
Rating: NR
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

William Genovese investigates the events surrounding his sister Kitty's widely publicized murder 50 years after the fact. 

"The Witness" is a documentary directed by James D. Solomon. It follows William Genovese and his investigation into his sister Kitty's murder, which occurred 50 years ago. This isn't an unsolved case. In fact, his sister's killer was caught and sentenced to death, but through an appeal, had his sentence reduced to life in prison. This case, and really this documentary, is less about the murder of Kitty Genovese and more about the bystander effect that occurred in 1964 as William's sister was brutally killed and almost raped in three separate attacks by the same man. A reported 38 people heard her screams for help, yet nobody came to her aid. Some have since called into question the accuracy of that exact number of witnesses, but the fact remains many heard her screams and few bothered to act.

William Genovese is clearly obsessed with the murder of his sister, and frankly, who wouldn't be when you hear how many people could have potentially stopped it? We watch as he requests copies of police reports and old notes from news networks that reported on the story at the time to now try and find the truth several decades later. He conducts interviews with whatever witnesses are still alive and actually willing to talk to him on camera. He interviews those who first reported on the tragedy, as well as others familiar with the case via their coverage in newspapers, television, and even in the books they have written. It isn't exactly clear what William is trying to uncover in his investigation. Is he hoping to find that people weren't actually apathetic to his sister's exclamations and really did try to help her? Does he want to ask those still living why they didn't do anything? The answer to these questions are discussed in any basic psychology class as it starts with diffusion of responsibility. If there is an apartment building with hundreds of people in it and many hear the screams of one woman, one may assume someone else will or already has called the authorities, so they do nothing. What we really end up watching is a man trying to find meaning in or make sense of his sister's tragic death.

William goes through these investigative motions, much to the chagrin of his other siblings, only uncovering a few bits of new information most would prefer be left in the past. "The Witness," while about a horrific and senseless crime, ultimately remains less about the life of Kitty Genovese and more about her death, with the other Genovese siblings had seemingly wanted to avoid. This winds up being one man's journey as he copes with a family tragedy. He even tries to talk to his sister's killer in search of closure, but only manages to talk to the killer's son, who seems to only offer victim blaming and excuses for his dad's terrifying actions. William eventually does get a letter from the killer and it is clear that he is completely deluded, suppressing the horrors he committed. It also turns out he had far more victims than just Kitty.

In the end, it doesn't really feel like we got anywhere in "The Witness" and it doesn't seem like William is any better off or made any progress in moving on than he was when he started the project.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

No comments:

Post a Comment