Disclaimer: The following article contains spoilers from Netflix's Guilty.
There is no denying the fact that Netflix has always pushed the bar when it comes to developing novel, groundbreaking stories. But that does not seem to be the case with the latest Hindi originals by Netflix. Like Netflix's latest film Guilty that talks about sexual assault and privilege, in the wake of India's #MeToo movement.
The way the movement played out on social media is just one of the many points that Guilty employs while building its narrative about a college heartthrob who stands accused of rape by a woman who had a crush on him.
However, while the movie introduces a good premise, the story is so weakly developed that this whodunit turns into a frustrating exploration of what not to do when narrating a story about sexual assault, consent, and privilege.
Kiara Advani stars as the protagonist Nanki, a college student whose boyfriend, Vijay Pratap Singh, (Gurfateh Singh Pirzada) is accused of rape by another student, Tanu Arora (Akansha Ranjan).
Vijay, the son of a politician and former model, is depicted as the poster child of privilege while Tanu, who hails from a small town, is portrayed as a 'bold', ambitious girl, never shy of expressing her desires - sexual or otherwise. Though the focus on any desire, other than sexual, is minimal.
As her accusation, over a Tweet, goes viral, Vijay's parents employ a team of lawyers to help him. The team is helmed by Danish Ali Baig (Taher Shabbir), who is conflicted about the case, and apparently, also his feelings for Nanki.
The movie's basic plot is established right at the start, and the rest of the film works as an investigation into the case. The investigation is led in equal part by Nanki and Danish.
As Nanki continues to uncover the truth, her belief in her boyfriend continues to dwindle. Until finally, on the same day that the court declares him as innocent, she discovers that he is indeed guilty.
The movie touches upon various topics, from false accusations to male entitlement to drug abuse and even the role social media plays in character assassination. It even brings to light mental health issues, patriarchal set-ups that always blame the victim, and the unsaid but ever-present 'bro code' where male friendship rates higher than humanity.
And yet, every topic introduced is either misrepresented or not given the importance it deserves. The end result is a confusing, rambling drama, with multiple plot holes and a fair share of cringe-worthy moments.
Also, at a time when Bollywood is finally realizing the importance of realism in movies, the characters in Guilty still appear to be far removed from our reality. The film's reliance on clichés like climactic monologues and last-minute discoveries, and its unidimensional characterizations, leads to a disappointing mess. One that does more to harm the cause of #MeToo rather than show it in a comprehensive, holistic light.
However, what really lets you down as a viewer is the realization that the story and actors had real potential, especially when we consider the lack of censorship that platforms like Netflix enjoy. And yet, a weak screenplay, that only scratches at the surface of the problem, leaves you visibly disappointed.
Guilty brings to light a new side of Kiara Advani and attempts to begin a discussion about how the #MeToo movement actually affected the accused. But that's perhaps all that you can take away from the film.
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