’Triggered’ Offers a New Perspective on Gun Violence – Review
Tara Westwood’s directorial debut, Triggered, is a wild ride of emotions that unpack slowly and steadily and put many interesting questions on the table.
With only four actors and two settings (though mainly one), this 20-minute short tells a compelling story through dialogue and powerful acting. Ohio, played by Isiah Whitlock Jr. (Da 5 Bloods, The Wire), and Virginia, played by Caitlin Mehner (Dopesick, Ocean’s 8), break into an influential U.S. senator’s home and gun down both her (played by director Tara Westwood) and her husband, played by Robert John Burke (Law & Order Special Victim’s Unit, Rescue Me). They hold them responsible for not being able to prevent gun violence tragedies that ended the life of their respective families and seek retribution for that.
Triggered is the story of how far people who have lost everything are willing to go to get revenge. Told innumerable times as the origin story for villains in action-adventure/superhero movies, the short takes a realistic look into several gun violence issues, including political ones like the influence of the gun lobby on the U.S. Senate, and also brings its own conclusions to the table. It should be stressed though, that even though one of the characters is a senator, and lobbying is brought up, the film never feels like a political statement, but rather a humane one. It’s inevitable that people on one side will try to taint it as a message from the other side, but at its core, it’s about two people who lost everything and have lost their way. Trying to keep the conversation spoiler-free, I will say that the ending feels earned and thought-provoking to say the least.
While all four performances are quite strong, it is Mehner, in my opinion, who deserves all the praise. Her character jumped off the screen and felt like a wild card all the way through, though it is made abundantly clear why she is always on the edge. Westwood also delivered a solid performance, but I feel like it was her work behind the camera that really shined in Triggered. It doesn’t mean that her performance was not believable, but rather that her directing skills outshined her acting, something surprising for a veteran actress and first-time director. The script, by Thomas C. Dunn, is very tight, but the heart of the film resides in the performances, and Westwood, as an actress herself, knew it and exploited it.
Triggered premiered at Cleveland International Film Festival, then played at Tribeca, and went on to win Best Drama Short and Best Performance in a Short for Isiah Whitlock Jr. at Cordillera International Film Festival. It will screen at the CineLounge in Hollywood from the 9th to the 15th of September. The Oscar live-action shortlist will be announced on December 21st.
Miguel Fernández is a Spanish student that has movies as his second passion in life. His favorite movie of all time is The Lord of the Rings, but he is also a huge Star Wars fan. However, fantasy movies are not his only cup of tea, as authors like Scorsese, Fincher, Kubrick or Hitchcock have been an obsession for him since he started to understand the language of filmmaking. He is that guy who will watch a black and white movie, just because it is in black and white.