Forgiveness is a simple concept that is rightfully placed in the “Easier Said Than Done” box that’s tucked away in the hidden corner on the top shelf. Why? Well, when that object of forgiveness is the source of deep-seeded personal trauma, like an abusive parent or partner, then surely, we can rationalize that forgiveness would not apply to them and we’d be fine. Right?
In James Brown Orleans’s short film, Waking Venus, she paints a picture of life and survival after trauma. Co-written with star Cara Shaffer, Waking Venus opens in the middle of a therapy session between Dr. Hunter (Kyle Mitchell) and the titular Venus (Cara Shaffer). Dr. Hunter hands Venus a box containing a painting representing Venus’ trauma and asks her to look at it, confront the past, and forgive. Easier said than done.
Venus then quickly jumps to a school bathroom setting as if in a dream, where she is confronted Edie (Stephanie Patent), who claims she was the only one there to comfort Venus, who was bullied relentlessly by her classmate at school for being overweight as well as the abuse from her father.
“…hands Venus a box containing a painting representing Venus’ trauma…”
We are next introduced to Janet (Kayla Barr), who is a fellow survivor and patient of Dr. Hunter and finds a critical friend and ally in Venus. The doctor is using the same technique to help Janet with her abusive husband. Janet has progressed and is ready to leave treatment and return to life and an empty home.
The 18-minute short illustrates the internal battle one faces when attempting to move beyond one’s dark past. This past has a way of becoming an obstacle to maturity. On one side, we have a trained, educated professional in Dr. Hunter, encouraging us to walk a hard path to recovery and on the other, a personal demon pressuring us to take the easy, yet self-destructive, circular road to nowhere. The film’s message is clear and effective.
Waking Venus is a powerful metaphor of recovery and Venus’ walk down a path that’s easier said than done. It’s easy to connect with Cara Shaffer’s performance as Venus. She guides us through the battle raging in her mind. Kyle Mitchell’s portrayal of Dr. Hunter is equally convincing as the calm, voice of experience, who had also overcome personal trauma from a military tour. This story of hope is simple and offers some subtle insight to becoming whole again.