Writer-director Julius Charles Ritter’s feature, What Did Deborah Do?, is one of those films where I’m still wrestling with the plot even now as I write this review. Is this a good thing? I think so.
The film opens with the titular Deborah (Diana Malota), an aspiring writer, commencing the exit interview with a therapist (Virginia Cassavetes) from a stint in a mental institution just before her release. The film is about the events that put her there in the first place.
The story of What Did Deborah Do? is told in two threads. One follows Deborah as she attempts to “apologize” for stabbing her ex-boyfriend, Chris’ (Ramsey Krull) eye out. The other thread is the account that led up to the said stabbing. Suffice it to say. It’s a complicated matter.
Starting with the “apology,” Deborah is a bit psycho, and no one wants to talk to her. Chris refuses to have any contact with her, and his brother, Karl (Justin Schenck), and wife, Michelle (Carmen Serano), resent being the go-between between the toxic pair. Deborah’s life-long best friend, Benny (Ben Ferrell), is the only person Deborah can turn to. What led up to the stabbing resulted from a tender relationship between Deborah and Chris gone wrong. Both are aspiring writers, and Chris relies on Deborah for feedback on his work. But the reverse is not true as Chris comes up with every excuse in the book to avoid reading her work…then he does.
“…follows Deborah as she attempts to ‘apologize’ for stabbing her ex-boyfriend, Chris’ eye out.”
Admittedly, I’ve just given you the basic narrative of the film. The subtext of the apology storyline is the foundation of What Did Deborah Do?. Deborah is dead set about finding closure, which is not an apology. She needs to hunt down Chris and doesn’t care who gets hurt in her wake: Chris, Karl, or Alan, the father of the girl she’s tutoring.
Here’s why I’m wrestling so much with this. Is Deborah the hero or villain? She does some pretty crappy stuff, starting with stabbing Chris’ eye out. 2She’s a bit, if not a full-blown sociopath. Whenever someone crosses her or takes advantage, she must exact revenge. In two cases, it’s robbery and, in Karl’s case, destroying his marriage with Michelle.
Malota’s performance is the shining star of What Did Deborah Do?. Film has had a long history of unlikable leads (i.e., As Good As It Gets). I’m watching Deborah’s life play out, and I hate everything she’s doing especially sabotaging any chance at redemption. However, then you find out why. Another outstanding performance comes from Ben Ferrell as Deborah’s best friend and enabler. Though pushed around from the start, he gives an incredible speech to kick off the final act.
This drama falls right in my wheelhouse of films I’m drawn to. It’s about people and the broken nature of humans. It’s the story of a woman who has hit her bottom before finding peace. In the case of Deborah, finding rock bottom means destroying her entire life in a glorious blaze of fury. Some people come out of this maimed.
Finding peace in one’s life is rarely a matter of “just getting over it.” Sometimes it requires confronting the past head-on and leaving it lying in a devasting wake. I love movies that are not clean and leave me questioning not just the story but life in general, and What Did Deborah Do? did exactly that.
For more information about What Did Deborah Do?, visit the BayView Entertainment website.
"…It's about people...all of us and our broken nature."