A female jogger returns to the beach on a cloudy day. She’s returned to the scene of a traumatic incident and seems to be looking for a sense of closure.
But her thoughts are interrupted when she runs into a man walking his dog. Though they know one another, their conversation is awkward, full of hesitancies and unsaid emotions. Though on the surface they are friendly, they’re dancing around the connection they share.
But as their discussion continues, it emerges just how they know one another, opening up an explosive powder keg of memories, assumptions and emotions.
Director Aurora Fearnley and writer Isley Lynn have crafted a compact yet involving drama that gets its power from a combination of emotional honesty and a sense of restraint, both in the visuals and in the storytelling.
Captured in muted naturalistic colors and light, the setting is both sparsely beautiful and bleakly isolated — a point of concern that will become important as their discussion goes on. The skillful, dialogue-centric writing organically uses the characters’ reluctance to talk about a difficult subject in an awkward social situation as a way to build suspense and curiosity, trying to parse out just how these two know one another. When it becomes clearer what happened and just how they know one another, it accelerates the intensity of the short, as well as the tension, as they hash out just how their shared experience has affected them and how they moved forward from it — or didn’t.
This discussion unravels in a one-shot, which emphasizes the back-and-forth of the two characters and the terrible way they are bonded to one another. It also opens up the unspoken assumptions that undergird their processing of their shared traumatic event. The two actors — Maria Jose Bavio and James Rastall — bring these ideas to life with genuine emotion, in precise, responsive performances that remind the audience that seemingly didactic ideas have frighteningly real-life consequences and applications.
In an era reckoning with the politics of sex, assault and trauma, “Struck” is notable for its relevancy, thorny emotion and its tough-minded resolve to redefine what it means to be a survivor, as well as gives voice to the confusion and helplessness of the bystander position. But its lasting resonance and final impression are actually one of profound emotional generosity, as it segues into its final sequence, where two characters at odds finally come together, revealing surprising strengths and weaknesses.
Both the man and woman realize there are no simple, easy answers in front of them. There is only the willingness to hear fully one another’s POV by also examining the assumptions that get in the way of being understood — as well as opening up about the vulnerability and fear that ideological certainties try to protect us from, but that only lead to more harm and damage in the long run.