Home Movies What She Said (2021) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)

What She Said (2021) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)

by Amari

What She Said presents a broad focus on rape as it covers how the survivor feels, those who were there, and what should be done throughout the aftermath.


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Director(s)Amy Northup
Screenplay ByJenny Lester
Date Released9/14/2021
Where Can You Watch?Video On Demand
Genre(s)Crime, Drama, Young Adult, LGBT, Family
Duration1 Hour 39 Minutes
MPAA RatingNot Rated
Noted Cast
SamJenny Lester
MeghanJarielle Whitney
AaronPeter Evangelista
BeccaPaige Berkovitz
EliBritt Michael Gordon
HarperJuliana Jurenas
RuthyLucas Calzada
NoahChristopher Mychael Watson

Film Summary

Almost a year ago, Sam was raped after going to the engagement party of her best friends Meghan and Aaron. Since then, her relationship with Noah has soured, and dealing with all it takes to go to trial has stolen her joy and energy. It has led to decisions that her social justice warrior sister, Becca, has questioned alongside her brother Eli. But, with it being her story, her decision whether to testify, none of them, nor her former best friend, now sister-in-law Harper, will coerce her as that man did 11 months ago.

Cast & Character Guide

Harper (Juliana Jurenas), Eli (Britt Michael Gordon), Becca (Paige Berkovitz), Meghan (Jarielle Whitney), and Aaron (Peter Evangelista) in What She Said

Harper (Juliana Jurenas), Eli (Britt Michael Gordon), Becca (Paige Berkovitz), Meghan (Jarielle Whitney), and Aaron (Peter Evangelista)

Please Note: This is not an exhaustive list of every cast member.

Sam (Jenny Lester)

Currently working on her dissertation and toiling over whether she should give a testimony at her rape trial, Sam just wanted a quiet Thanksgiving. Her case has taken over her life and relationships, so now, she wants to be alone at the family cabin. However, thanks to Eli, that didn’t happen.

Meghan (Jarielle Whitney)

Meghan is Aaron’s fiancée, who is trying not to come down on Sam like the others while also dealing with the issues in her own relationship – specifically with communication.

Aaron (Peter Evangelista)

Aaron is Meghan’s fiancé that has known Sam since the early years of college, and they’ve stayed close ever since. Even with him now being with someone else.

Becca (Paige Berkovitz)

Political correctness and Becca go hand in hand. She is the type who questions everything said that doesn’t sound feminist and can be seen as a social justice warrior. Granted, a flawed one, since sometimes she doesn’t know when to lay down her arms, but she says and does what she does with the best intentions.

Eli (Britt Michael Gordon)

All Eli wants is justice. If not through the legal system, he’ll do it himself. There is just immense guilt over what happened and being unable to do anything frustrates him to no end.

Harper (Juliana Jurenas)

Harper was Sam’s best friend at one time, but when she got with and eventually married Eli? Oh, she became the woman Sam can not stand no matter what she did. So, now Sam seems to seek opportunities to pick a fight with Harper, and sometimes Harper engages. Other times she remembers the fight isn’t even worth it.

Ruthy (Lucas Calzada)

Ruthy (Lucas Calzada) hanging out with Sam

Ruthy (Lucas Calzada)

Ruthy is one of Sam’s newest friends and perhaps the only one amongst everyone who knows what is going on in Sam’s day-to-day life. Meanwhile, everyone else only knows what Sam tells them, or they are lucky enough to see.

Noah (Christopher Mychael Watson)

Depending on who you ask, Noah is Sam’s boyfriend, but that’s really up in the air right now.

Things To Note | Question(s) Left Unanswered

Reason(s) for Film Rating

  1. Cursing
  2. Details about a rape (no visual, only telling what happened)
  3. Smoking
  4. Drinking
  5. Talking about having an eating disorder

Review

Highlights

While About Sam, Everyone Is Treated Like The Star Of Their Own Story

The central topic is about Sam being assaulted at Meghan and Aaron’s engagement party, yet it’s made clear that everyone’s life doesn’t revolve around Sam and this topic. Aaron and Meghan are having issues as a couple. When it comes to Harper, we’re told about her storied history with Sam, dating back to secondary school, as well as what’s going on with her marriage to Eli. And Lester just expertly crafts these characters into the story so that you get a taste of what real people would feel and be like in such a situation. Rather than make them all seem like they just appeared at Sam’s doorstep ready for intervention and to haunt her for a few days like ghosts.

Understanding How Rape Doesn’t Just Affect One Person

The benefit of establishing each of Harper’s friends and family as individuals is that it allows us to see how having someone you love get raped affects each one differently. For Aaron and Meghan, there is how much guilt they should take on for picking the venue. Eli is worried about not fulfilling his role as brother and then comes whether or not Sam may testify since many almost seem to feel it would vindicate them of ill feelings.

This really helps you understand how much speaking out, even if seeking justice, isn’t always about the survivor. Like a birthday party, funeral, even graduation ceremony, as much as it can be about the person at the center of it all, it’s not. There is expectation, judgement, even demands upon the survivor as if they should have to worry about anything besides the healing process. Yet, with everyone needing to live through getting some sort of resolution vicariously, without having the full weight of the burden, What She Said shows you what happens. You get people who think they mean well but don’t realize how callous they are being.

Playing The Role Of Plaintiff & Defendant At The Same Time

The beautiful thing about the #MeToo movement is that it gave a platform for men and women to speak up, speak out, and find a supportive community in ways that was unavailable pre-social media. However, while social media has made it easier to find community, it has also strengthened the court of public opinion. Which can be helpful, but also make it so the survivor finds their reputation and life ruined as much as their rapist.

We all know the questions: What were you wearing, did you make it clear you didn’t want it, or you knew what was going to happen when you went to their place. These, amongst others, are presented often, and it’s not lost on us how much everyone talks about how they should have done something to protect Sam or prevent the situation, as if she was doomed from the start. Basically, submitting subliminal blame because Sam enjoys drinking and partying, and giving her a reason to do both, was setting her up.

And mind you, those are her friends feeling guilty as if they could have said or done something to prevent the situation. Pair that with the rapist’s friends, family, or people who think there is a gray area or it didn’t happen as Sam said online? What She Said presents a different way to look at why someone may not speak up or, if they do, they may not want their friends and family involved. There is such immense pressure to prove your vulnerability in the moment and innocence overall. Which creates an undertaking that makes you feel like you have to defend yourself rather than the actual defendant.

Sam’s Handling Of The Situation

Sam (Jenny Lester) with a bow and arrow

Sam (Jenny Lester)

This is why we love Sam. She doesn’t fit how we often are shown survivors of rape. She may not be who she once was, but she hasn’t completely shut down. She is exhibiting risky behaviors, but the film doesn’t push a strong narrative about her reclaiming her autonomy through random sex. Sam is shown to be an outlier since she doesn’t want this trial for other possible victims or to prevent future ones. It’s strictly for her. It’s not about her brother’s needs, her sister’s, and them coming together as one against a guy who violated her.

No. What She Said isn’t about Sam being put on a pedestal and being any sort of ideal survivor. Sam is a human being, an individual, who had something horrible happen to them, and it shifted their perspective and that of everyone around them. Heck, even Sam’s relationship was affected, and as she talks about how his touch is different, just like everything else in Sam’s life, it really does shows how much one action has an immense ripple effect. One that you would love to calm, so the waters become steady again, but it seems with every attempt to do so, the waves get bigger, and for Sam, that means people pursuing what they need to feel comfortable and her needs drifting further and further from shore. To the point, they don’t even notice she is drowning due to them than the situation they need her to deal with.

Overall

Our Rating: Positive (Worth Seeing)Recommended

As society more openly talks about rape and assault, there is a need to dive into the nuances and entertainment to focus less on the act and more on the aftermath. What does it do to people, their friends, family, and relationships? What does the justice system look like when making a life-altering accusation? What She Said may not be the final sentence of a long conversation, but it adds meaning to the heart of the conversation.

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Ratings

  • Recommended: Some of the best-seen movies we have ever watched and mentioned to friends, family, and strangers as films that need to be seen.
  • Positive (Worth Seeing): Whether you’ll have to go to the movies, download, or stream, movies of this category are worth your time and money with few, if any, qualms from us.
  • Mixed (Divisive): Due to this movie having a few quirks, of which may work for some and for others be a problem, we believe your enjoyment of this movie will depend on your taste.
  • Negative (Acquired Taste): While one or two elements kept us going until the end, unfortunately, we’re of the opinion this film never reached the potential it was marketed to have.

Special Categories/ Tags

  • Indie: By our definition, independent films are films you have to seek to find due to limited availability or lack of a marketing push.
  • Film Festival: Featured in this tag are films and shorts which were discovered thanks to various film festivals, so some of the productions may not have wide availability but still may deserve to be on your watch.
  • Shorts: Be it ten or fifteen minutes, or a half-hour, these quick teases or films get right to the point, often show the potential of filmmakers and the actors who have joined them in their journey.
Poster - What She Said (2021)
What She Said (2021) – Review/ Summary (with Spoilers)
Who Is This For?
It's between those who need someone to relate to as a survivor, or for those who wish to have a further understanding of what not to do and how to avoid making it about your feelings.
Highlights
While About Sam, Everyone Is Treated Like The Star Of Their Own Story
Understanding How Rape Doesn't Just Affect One Person
Playing The Role Of Plaintiff & Defendant At The Same Time
Sam's Handling Of The Situation
Disputable
86

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