Knots: A Forced Marriage Story is the definition of a story that needs to be told. It is a documentary on the shockingly widespread issue of legal forced and child marriages and, by extension, legalized pedophilia within the United States. It does not waste words or time showing how this oppressive and morally reprehensible custom has made its way into a diverse array of American communities and became one of the most widespread yet undiscussed issues facing American society. Writer/director Kate Ryan Brewer captures the stories of three women across the United States and cultural, religious, and racial lines. In doing so, she shows that it’s not an issue with any single religion, organization, or people but an American problem.
Knots: A Forced Marriage Story effectively uses its talking-head format to personalize this widespread issue. While the structure is limited in its effectiveness, it’s used to powerfully tell the stories of these women from their perspective, and it gives them the space to share their experiences in a safe environment.
One of the women, Fraidy Reiss, is the founder of Unchained At Last, an advocacy group for women who are trapped in forced marriages. Hearing not only her story but of her constant unending struggle to help these women and the legal restrictions that deny help to children in forced marriages is heart-wrenching. The unflinching look at Reiss and her organization drives home the fundamental point that this is morally reprehensible in its disregard for children’s autonomy and childhood and a national embarrassment. The psychological damage and horror stories of rape, pedophilia, and abuse were shocking, but learning that hundreds of thousands of American parents are still willing to sign off their child daughters to predatory older men is just as disheartening.
“…a documentary on the shockingly widespread issue of legal forced and child marriages…”
Additionally, Knots: A Forced Marriage Story has experts explain the history and development of these practices and the laws that have codified them. These interviews give much-needed context to how this mixture of archaic laws and patriarchal customs gave way to horrifying loopholes.
The film’s plot is strong, powerfully weaving together these three unique stories of suffering, struggle, and hard-fought liberation. The strong progression of events ably keeps the audience engaged with all of the narrative threads. However, the consistent use of a performance art video of a woman dancing while intertwined with red string, which became excessive as it gets used more and more. As the footage kept popping up, it felt like the Brewer didn’t have enough footage to put over these stories being told, rather than its likely intent emphasizing the experience of being trapped in a forced or coercive marriage through a metaphor of physical bondage.
Knots: A Forced Marriage Story does not chastise its audience. Instead, it asks the audience to join them in creating a better world where children and teenagers have the opportunity to grow and mature and romance with each other. While those who want to force children and young adult women into coercive and abusive relationships with predatory men are put in jail.
"…keeps the audience engaged with all of the narrative threads."