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An American Crime 

Tommy O’Haver

An American Crime
Directed by: Tommy O’Haver
(First Look Pictures)
Young Sylvia Likens died while living at somebody else’s home, the words “I’M A PROSTITUTE AND PROUD OF IT!” carved into her belly. She’d spent the preceding months being burned, flogged and degraded by various neighbourhood kids and her own temporary guardian. An American Crime tells Sylvia’s (true) story. The film doesn’t tell us Sylvia once stole gym clothes and spread rumours that her guardian’s two eldest daughters were promiscuous. (Apparently, movie-watchers are only sufficiently moved by seeing an entire family brutalize, sexually humiliate and kill another human being when the victim in question isn’t a gym-clothes-stealing rumour-spreader.) Sanitizing and over-simplifying poor Sylvia’s tale may have been forgivable, if co-scripters Tommy O’Haver and Irene Turner had used the extra film-time gained from detail shaving to take up the troubling questions that the bizarre circumstances surrounding the crime raise---about mob mentality, corrosive parenting, morality and complicity through silence. But they didn’t. Instead, we spend an hour watching Sylvia (Ellen Page) get beat up, 10 minutes being tricked into thinking she’s escaped and another five minutes listening to Sylvia narrate the trial for her own murder. Ugh.
Lindsay McCarney

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