Writer/Director Kayla Fyfe has put together a short film of significant substance for you to watch. It's often difficult to say you 'enjoy' movies like "Catharsis" even though that's the case. I tend to cheer on challenging topics, strong points of view, and perspectives as a viewer/critic, but that doesn't mean that my stomach doesn't end up in knots at times when reviewing material that delves into harsh realities, as Fyfe's film does. Essentially, "Catharsis" is entertaining, sure – but beyond that, it's actually important. Someone out there will see this short film one day and find the courage to speak up where they might not have before. With each iteration of that fraction of personal justice and societal evolution, this world becomes a much better place for the future to follow. As much as any of us wish this planet could just sort itself out, and its inhabitants would be the best versions of themselves at all times, "Catharsis" reminds us that we're still far removed from being the utopia Earth should have been.
The unfortunate reality is, you might be just like Riley (Katie Blu), or you might even be like Leah (Erika Eldrenkamp) – or you might know someone who is like either of them - or know someone who knows of someone who is like either of them. Therein lies the point. What you'll witness in "Catharsis" is very real stuff that deals with sexual abuse, taking advantage of power dynamics, keeping secrets, and even implied underage sexual activity…all yucky topics to think about for most of us, yet absolutely crucial to be aware of in an effort to avoid becoming a victim of these circumstances. Whether it's to keep ourselves safe or someone we love – heck, even a stranger shouldn't have to go through what Riley does – like I was saying, "Catharsis" deals with important issues that we should all be educated on. Thankfully, Fyfe has created a film that cuts to the quick & gives you a crash course on creepiness and the aftermath of experiencing trauma - triggered years later down the road. If there's one lesson to be learned more so than any other from "Catharsis," in my opinion, it's that it's never too late to speak up and say what needs to be said. You've seen it in headlines and stories all over the news over the past who-knows-how-long because the tale itself is sadly as old as time – abuse happens all too frequently in a variety of forms & sometimes it's years before the victims are even able to speak about what happened to them.
Under scrutiny, you'll see a whole lot of victim-blaming and judgments about the timing of telling their stories, but that never tarnishes the courage that is summoned in order to shine a light on the truth. Just like you'll see in Riley's story and the complex thoughts, emotions, and feelings portrayed by Katie Blu, it's never easy to confront trauma. We blame ourselves for things that were out of control, and we engage in "whataboutism" in thinking we could have done something different. We even think the unthinkable is somehow our fault - it's human nature, defense mechanisms, and doing what we need to do in order to survive the traumas we experience. This is why having someone out there like Leah, portrayed by Erika Eldrenkamp, is such a necessary thing in life… she's someone who listens, someone who supports, and someone who understands. Whereas a lot of folks would tend to jump the gun & immediately start suggesting someone like Riley would go to the police or the media, Leah has recognized early on that it's actually not her story to tell but is ready to help her friend at a moment's notice.
When Riley is ready to speak about what happened between her and a young rising rockstar named Scott (Josh Lupyan), friends like Leah are completely crucial and become the strength we need when we can't find our own at the time when we need it most. I felt like both Blu and Eldrenkamp did an excellent job in their roles and really added the humanity we need to each character. Lupyan is more heard than seen but is also highly effective as the abuser. This brings us to the dialogue scripted by Fyfe – she did an exceptional job of showing how grooming works through the words in "Catharsis" and even smartly displayed those onscreen through text messages & whatnot; it's through those scenes that you see how the mechanics of deviancy take root, and we're forced to reckon with the fact that this could happen to anyone we care about if we're not vigilant, aware, and seeing the signs. Abusers are going to abuse – it's who they are, and unfortunately, history has proven that they've always been lurking in the darkest corners of this planet. It's what happens in the aftermath that "Catharsis" focuses on and brings our awareness to.
I feel like Kayla Fyfe told a story we know all too well but did it correctly - with real care and grace. "Catharsis" isn't just entertainment. Like I said, it's important. A film like this could certainly be shown as part of educational programs; it's designed to stimulate conversation about communication and serves as a reminder that we're never alone. A well-earned three & a half stars out of five from me, "Catharsis" is a film that certainly feels familiar for its subject matter, but it's a story that needs to be told as many times as it takes - until the world finally listens to the message & we end the cycle of abuse, forevermore.