Review of My Baby Shot Me Down (2016). United Kingdom, 10 minutes. Written and directed by Daniella Daemy. Starring Charlotte Atkinson, Luca Ribezzo, Marta Coluccia, Shiraz Haq, Alida Pantone, Andre Mckie, Sydnee Howard, Alessandro De Marco, Anna Clarence, and Colin Lee Berry
According to this film, in the UK a woman is killed every three days as a result of domestic abuse. It’s easy—and truthful—to say that such a statistic is horrifying and tragic. It’s also fair to assert that the ongoing violence against women within their own homes is enraging. The short film My Baby Shot Me Down channels this raw emotion as its five female characters, all victims of domestic abuse, seek and execute revenge upon their previous partners. With domestic abuse still a problem in every corner of the world, this short film offers audiences a worthwhile, if somewhat unconventional, perspective on the subject.
Four pairs of stilettoes clack softly on a blue-tinted concrete floor as the women wearing them march in unison to the steady, provocative beat of the drums accompanied by guitar riffs. Sweeping camera movements reveal their captives: five men standing tied up in their underwear. It is a startling and intriguing first scene, to be sure, made all the more dramatic with costuming, cinematography, and that perfectly timed soundtrack. Onward from this point the film delivers backstories for all the women, showcasing the violence of their past by lingering in close-ups on the abuse—hits, kicks, choking, and drowning.
The film communicates its various themes, the emotions of the characters, and the stories behind them without the use of any dialogue. This approach serves to elevate the intensity of characters’ emotions; the message of the film is far from lost as the actors express fear, anger, and betrayal through their eyes and body language. The tonal shifts between past abuses and present revenge are aided by contrasts in the cinematography and an exceptionally synchronized and deliberate soundtrack. The images, filmed on 35 mm, and the intense, rhythmic, and off-kilter music deliver a powerful short narrative that sees its characters transition from struggling victims into calculating revenge-seekers, complete with matching outfits.
I admit that the story this film tells is hard to swallow. It appears to contradict itself, as the women use violence to combat violence. But the writing and direction seek to create a symbolic, rather than a literal meaning. The ugly past abuse of the women, shot in black in white, is full of movement from the handheld camera and close-ups of the writhing women’s pained faces. When these same women exact their revenge, they knock their helpless abusers down with a single punch. It’s a power move, one that says, “I’m in control now. You can’t hurt me anymore.” Each nameless woman is given screen time to have her story told. The camerawork and music is unique to each character, though the transitions are so smooth it’s hardly noticeable at first. This approach develops a personality for each woman and gives depth to their stories in a few short minutes.
The film doesn’t provide a solution to domestic violence, nor does it claim to. What it does offer is a small taste of some of the horrors that too many women face daily, and it showcases anger and desire for revenge as a natural response to the abuse. Most of all, it brings abused women as individuals—each with her own personality and story—to the forefront. It reminds the audience that there are human beings living behind the domestic abuse statistics.