SXSW film review: Violet is the essential cinematic explanation of anxiety

Olivia Munn in Violet.
Olivia Munn in Violet. Pic credit: Mark William

Invisible conditions are hard to explain to most people. Even worse, it’s hard to explain anxiety when as a mental health issue, it is sometimes caused by abuse or past trauma. Typically it’s a common thing most will laugh at when conveyed as a problem.

The movie Violet will quiet a lot of those who joke that it’s not a real issue.

The film that stars Olivia Munn is going to be one of this year’s breakout films when it eventually finds a theatrical or streaming home. And here is to hoping that is quite soon.

Here are our full thoughts on Violet playing at SXSW 2021.

Violet review

In the film directed by Justine Bateman, Olivia Munn’s Violet is a film executive who pushes screenplays into the greenlight stage. As we are introduced to her character, the villain immediately introduces itself. Violet begins eating a Sno Ball in front of her roommate and we hear the word “Pig” voicing over repeatedly and firmly by a voice (Justin Theroux).

She then gets in the car and the voice repeats demeaning and abusive phrases like, “When are you getting your own house?” and “You are such a loser.”

And as she hears this, white handwritten texts overlay the visual with her own thoughts, such as “I don’t know who I am anymore.” This is clearly signifying the difference between her own thoughts she is controlling and the dark one that she has zero influence over.

This is the way most of the first half of the film plays out as we the viewer experience various scenarios with Violet. Her managing day-to-day social situations and decisions as the voice of Justin Theroux invokes fear into everything she actually wants to do.

That is until she decides to go to war with that inner monologue and seeing if it is indeed lying to her. And the result is a magnificent examination of a mental health struggle that more people should take seriously.

While it’s not said outright that Violet suffers from chemical or situational anxiety, all the clues point directly at it. And there is a lot that can be learned from this fascinating story about a woman fighting her demons.

One of the biggest takeaways is how emotional abuse can stir these conditions into existence. This can cause even the most successful person to question their validity constantly and possibly make them do the wrong thing because the inner voice instills fear where logic would normally be at the forefront.

Olivia Munn at Ninjago Photocall at Legoland
Olivia Munn at Ninjago Photocall at Legoland. Pic credit: Carrie Nelson

The movie Violet brilliantly shows how this can even affect relationships when one partner has no clue how this mental health struggle works causing misunderstandings and fights that only make the voice of Justin Theroux grow more powerful.

With that said, those who deal with these mental health issues may want to proceed with caution before watching Violet. It does have a positive message of freedom that might make it easier but still some aspects might be triggering if it’s already a daily battle.

Either way, if one wants to explain the mental warfare that takes place in someone with an anxiety disorder the best way possible, recommend this movie for them immediately.

Beyond the accuracy of mental health, the film is exceptionally edited together with creative choices of communicating Violet’s mindset.

The movie will use a string of upsetting images communicating a decline and deep dark faded red layovers when she feels triggered, whether it be Violet drawing inward or just downright hating herself.

The narrative is unconventional in nature. Instead of it being in a storybook format, each scene is framed like a memory of when things went wrong and when things went right. Still, surprisingly enough, there is a beginning-middle-end here that absolutely satisfies.

Olivia Munn is incredible in this movie as Violet. This film proves we do not get her in enough movies and she deserves more work. The experience will also make viewers wonder if she knows this mental health issue well– whether individually or through someone she loves– because it’s an authentic performance.

Overall Thoughts on Violet at SXSW

Violet is one of the best cinematic films (maybe the only one) to communicate an anxiety disorder experience to audiences. While it’s very entertaining, it’s also an important statement on mental health and how fear can destroy a life from the inside-out.

Still, the film is one of hope and freedom. It does not glorify or bathe in tragedy to get its point across but instead aims to say that the Justin Theroux in one’s head is not communicating truth.

Those who battle an anxiety disorder might want to be careful with some aspects possibly being triggering. But for the rest of the world, Violet is an entertaining and heartfelt film that is essential viewing.

If readers like this film, be sure and read the rest of our coverage at SXSW 2021 for Islands, Here Before, and Executive Order.

Stay tuned for more coverage of great films from SXSW 2021 at Monsters & Critics.

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