There’s a little too much going on in Victim(s), a drama based on the true events surrounding a teenage boy stabbing three classmates, killing one in the process, supposedly over a new girl at school. Through flashbacks, the film becomes a “whydunit”, a maelstrom of factors from bullying to blackmail, from turning a blind eye to repressed desire. This is a good movie in need of a tidy up.

Passivity plays a significant role in the way teachers gloss over violent bullying and the way fellow pupils promise to say nothing in exchange for their own safety. It hints at a kind of omertà among the school’s population which allows dangerous academic environments to fester. Sexuality features prominently also, since Gangzi – the fatality – is closeted, and any mention of homosexuality amongst friends is met with hyper-aggression. In turn, Gangzi lashes out while hiding his true self, compensating by taking part in extreme acts of assault.

Home lives are examined, as is the way social media whips up a frenzy, and so too is the role of journalism and trial by media. Understandably, an act of teenage knife crime is worthy of multifaceted investigation, which the film nobly attempts, but in the process, each story strand is diluted because the net is cast so wide.

Among the sociological mish-mash is an effective blurring of morality as events begin to become clear. Victim(s) lives up to its name through the abject failure to protect all of those involved, so sympathy is stretched widely, and the film asks some big questions of what is forgivable under the circumstances. Only one person – the new girl, Qianmo – keeps her hands clean, offering catharsis to a prolonged period of abusive adversity.

A sharper focus would have benefited this grim tale, one that is crammed with ideas. Yet Victim(s) gracefully handles moral grey areas, while highlighting the many failures preceding a tragedy.



CAST: Xianjun Fu, Wilson Hsu, Kahoe Hon

DIRECTOR: Layla Zhuqing Ji

WRITER: Layla Zhuqing Ji

SYNOPSIS: A based-on-true-events drama following the lives of teenage pupils at a school before a fatal attack, its fallout, and how such a tragedy could happen.