‘Guilty’ Review: A Promising Premise But the Ride Isn’t As Good
Netflix’s ‘Guilty’ streams 6 March onwards.
Review: Netflix’s ‘Guilty’ Has a Good Premise, but Is a Bad Ride
(This review may contain spoilers)
On Valentine’s day while a concert is going on in their college premises, Tanu (Akansha Ranjan Kapoor), accuses Vijay Pratap Singh aka VJ of rape. He vehemently denies the allegation and is supported by his girlfriend Nanki (Kiara Advani). The Netflix original Guilty, directed by Ruchi Narain, takes place at a time when the #MeToo phenomenon had just hit India, and a can of worms had been opened.
Narain sets Guilty up as a whodunit, so right at the start of the film we’re told of the situation and the rest of the course of the film is spent in investigating it. The premise is actually ripe with potential because this was a question that was raised during the MeToo movement too - should the survivor be believed until the accused has been convicted? Is a social media trial enough or should we wait for the court of law to declare the judgement? Who is really ‘guilty’? There was also copious amounts of victim shaming and character assassination of women during the movement, and the film explores that. But Narain is not able to milk the potential of the premise, and for the most part I was just confused.
The lawyer, hired by VJ’s family Danish (Taher Shabbir) to defend him, isn’t convinced of VJ’s innocence and tries to get to the bottom of the case. Here’s what puzzled me the most- why were VJ and his friends, who were asked to testify, so rude on camera? Especially when the lawyer is finding reasons to defend him. Guilty tries to balance both perspectives - the survivor’s and that of the accused. So, it raises questions about privileged and rich men being accused and taken advantage of because of their status.
Narain also talks about the toxic bro-code that exists between men, and how they have each other’s backs even when they commit the most gruesome acts. But all of this doesn’t come together. The screenplay is just so muddled that it’s hard to make sense of what is going on.
There’s very little actual investigation in Guilty and just a lot of angry outbursts by the several characters. Another puzzling thing - Tanu files a police complaint against VJ but I never saw any investigative officers in the film. Guilty tries to make Kiara Advani’s character Nanki the indirect investigator, and that’s where the problem lies. Her character is suffering from mental health issues and also tends to hallucinate. She pretends to believe her boyfriend when she’s with him, but when alone she feels conflicted about the situation. She’s a rebel, but the film keeps trying to tell us “she has issues! she has issues!”. That’s fine, but give us some depth?
Kiara Advani brings a nice combination of vulnerability and stubbornness to Nanki. She channels the anger, frustration and love Nanki has for her boyfriend but I wish the script gave her more to work with.
Akansha Ranjan is convincing as the small-town girl Tanu and Gurfateh Singh Pirzada brings the toughness that is required of VJ, but none of them are able to rise above the confused screenplay.
Some of the good parts are actually in the small moments of the film. Like when a senior lawyer says, “I’ve stopped hiring female interns after MeToo.” Guilty also shows just how hard it is for women to come out. Tanu’s character is told in the film,
“What about your career? You sure about this?” The film needed more moments like that.
The hallmark of a good whodunit is when the audience is guessing along with actors what the end could possibly be, but Guilty made me want to directly reach the end. Narain sets up the premise very well, and you expect some drama to unfold but it doesn’t. Sadly she’s not able to whip up a thrilling ride, which is a pity because the story had potential.
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