‘Retaliation’ Review: Orlando Bloom powerfully tells story of a man broken by child abuse, robbed of his faith

MEA WorldWide

July 23, 2020

By Pathikrit Sanyal


In the 2015 Oscar-winning biographical drama ‘Spotlight’, an extremely overwhelmed Phil Saviano (played by Neal Huff) tells the Boston Globe journalists, “See, it is important to understand that this is not just physical abuse. It’s spiritual abuse too. When a priest does this to you, he robs you of your faith.”

Saviano was talking about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. In a host of powerful scenes in the film, this one stands out. It spells out with immense clarity one of the consequences of this abuse that isn’t often spoken about.

Ludwig Shammasian and Paul Shammasian’s film ‘Retaliation’, which premiered at the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival as ‘Romans’, takes us through a similar painful journey. It tells the story of Malky or Malcolm (Orlando Bloom), a demolition worker in a working-class town in England. Malky may look like your normal guy-next-door, who likes to have a few pints of beer with his pals at his local pub after work, but he carries enormous pain inside him.

His cheery façade, however, begins to crumble, after he runs into someone at the pub. This man drags out ghosts from his past and Malky turns into this broken man, unable to process his feelings. He begins to lash out at people — sometimes complete strangers, sometimes his on-again-off-again girlfriend Emma (Janet Montgomery), sometimes his best friend Jo (Alex Ferns), and even himself.

His violent behavior stems from child sexual abuse. Twenty-five years ago, when he was no older than 12, a pastor (played by James Smillie) had raped him. And his repression of this act of abuse has led him to lead a dysfunctional life full of stoicism, rage, overcompensatory masculinity, mistrust, and sexual confusion.

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