Lagueria Davis’ 1 in 3 is not so much a depiction of Lifetime- melodrama nor the exploitive horrors that are common in domestic abuse thrillers, but a more realistic drafting of the possibilities of subtle daily domestic violence. As a first feature, 1 in 3 is prone to raw craft, but it is the passion and careful intention of the film’s depiction of fear in domestic violence that allows the film to convey its message of strength and validate social advocacy.
An initial courtroom scene between Sydell, social service advocate, and her domestic violence client Angie defines several key concepts behind the film. As the judge hears another case, Sydell and Angie share a private dialogue through the passing of paper and pen. What Angie reveals is a fear of her abusive husband despite the safety of legal decisions. Though she may recognize the authority of the legal procedures, the fact remains that Angie’s voice is denied and the ramifications of this moment extend beyond the courtroom of rules. Angie’s husband not only proves the limits of legal restrictions when he pulls out a gun in a later scene, but also ignites the recognition of the realities behind Sydell’s job: a legal resolution does not stop the possibilities of violence, and perhaps forces an unintended silence of victims. While this sequence of events results in dramatic violence at the hands of a male aggressor and gunplay, the film reveals the forms of violence only begin with the physical and extend into one’s own complicity when fears become the driving force of daily decisions.
Sydell and Angie are two of three women the film follows, and upper-class married Ophelia is the third. While Sydell confronts issues with intelligent contemplation and smart retort, Ophelia is a character of action. Battle preparations of hidden car keys and pill bottles anticipate her husband’s violent outbursts, just as they also reveal her acceptance of this violence as habit. Natasha Barron’s articulate performance of subtle gesture and hidden thought provide a believable character who’s torn between the love of her family and the painful relationship she’s had to endure. While it is Barron’s command as an actress that allows for a believable confrontation between the two strong characters Ophelia and Sydell, Davis has not drafted enough scenes of Ophelia’s struggle between the love for a husband when he is good and the horror of an abuser when he is bad. Such scenes would heighten and clarify the reasons behind the difficulty of leaving a spouse, especially if they are an abuser.
All shortcomings aside, the strength of the film is how Davis conveys the complicity that one’s own fear plays in the role of victim in any problematic relationship. While Sydell does not have a history of domestic violence, she is able to strongly advocate for the validity of a victim’s emotions as well as support their acceptance of violence in their own lives – both key necessities of domestic violence advocates. Though Sydell is strong in her beliefs, only once Ophelia questions her authority in group therapy does Sydell appear to be hypocritical. Sydell’s own fears inhibit her decision making process when it comes to letting her guard down when finding a mate. As Sydell comes to recognize her internalization of fear has blocked her ability to find happiness, the viewer is able to identify Sydell as struggling with the same inhibitions Ophelia does when asked to verbally recognize her own abuse. These two women suddenly share a similar struggle of fear’s powerful grasp over one’s identity, and close the bridge between Ophelia’s question of authority and Sydell’s limited domestic violence memory. This conflicted depiction of Sydell breaks down the often either/or cinematic depiction of the social worker as an overly emotional bleeding heart or the cold-hearted lover of government red-tape. This bridge between Sydell and Ophelia should hopefully instill a comfort for those victims who question the sympathy of their advocates, suggesting they too are overtaken by the fragile nature of one’s fear and guilt.