Miranda (2010) – By Cary Conley

Miranda seems to have it all. We begin at her engagement party where she is celebrating her forthcoming nuptials with the smooth, suave Arthur. The happy couple is perfect together, with beautiful Miranda in a short black dress and Arthur dressed to the nines in an expensive pinstripe suit. As the camera pans across the room, we first meet Miranda and her girlfriends who are "oohing" and "aahing" over the engagement ring. We then meet Arthur as he tells the romantic story of how he proposed at an expensive restaurant by surprising Miranda with a ring in her dessert.

But all is not as it seems. Shortly after Miranda’s best friend makes a toast, Miranda excuses herself and heads for the kitchen. Cut to Miranda’s memory of a recent event where Arthur catches her talking to a male patron at the library in which she works. Miranda had dropped a book, probably due to her injured fingers (in a clever and subtle hint of things to come) that are taped together and the patron chivalrously tries to help her pick up the book. In walks Arthur, obviously unhappy. In the next scene, Arthur stops the car in front of Miranda’s house and begins to pick a fight with her. The argument devolves into a shouting match and ends up with Arthur cursing, belittling and actually hitting Miranda while Miranda whimpers her apologies over and over. What we have is a clear-cut case of abuse. The film ends with Miranda wiping the tears from her face as she stands in the kitchen, mentally preparing herself to play the smiling bride-to-be as she walks back out to the party.

This simple 11-minute short is a testament to the power of abuse. Arthur seems to be a perfect gentleman and is well-liked by everyone while Miranda seems to be thrilled at the upcoming wedding. But neither of these two characters are on the inside what they seem to be on the outside, which poses an interesting dilemma for the viewer. When most viewers picture an abusive relationship, they probably picture a Charles Manson-type and a cowering woman with two black eyes, which is the stereotypical Hollywood version of that relationship. But the insidiousness of abuse means that not every abuser looks like a criminal and not every woman who is abused carries physical scars that can be seen–at least not in the beginning of the relationship. The film leaves no doubt in this viewer’s mind that not only will Miranda marry Arthur, but the abuse will continue to escalate until Miranda does bear physical scars along with her emotional ones. This is a simple but powerful portrayal of abuse.

Writer/director Kent Sutton and the folks at One Way or Another Productions have produced this short on a limited budget, and as with many low-budget films, the sound isn’t mixed well, so some characters are hard to hear while others are ear-splittingly loud. Sometimes the ambient sound obscures the dialogue as well, but these are technical quibbles that can be repaired. Miranda is being shopped around in order to attract financial backing for a planned expansion into a full-length feature about Intimate Partner Abuse (IPA). The planned feature will then be licensed free of charge to domestic violence groups across the U.S. to be used as a fundraising event for these groups, a noble venture indeed. Miranda won the Audience Choice Award at the Red Wasp Film Festival in late 2010 and continues to play the festival circuit. For more information about this unique project, go to http://www.wix.com/owoaproductions/miranda#!.