SXSW 2017: The Archer
Lauren Pierce (Bailey Noble), a straight A-student and junior archery champion, gets thrown into a female juvenile detention centre in the middle of nowhere, after a violent altercation involving her friend's boyfriend. Even though the warden (Bill Sage) takes a liking to her and her talents as an athlete, vouching to make sure she serves as little time as possible, Lauren doesn't believe she belongs, and after befriending fellow jailbird Rebecca (Jeanine Mason), makes an escape attempt that results in bloody consequences.
Coming from director Valerie Weiss (A Light Beneath Their Feet) and writer Casey Schroen, The Archer takes a unique approach to the familiar template of the classic female prison movie, shedding it of its exploitation sheen and making it applicable to a modern audience. That's not to say the film pulls any punches, as the entire third act comprises a chase through the wilderness with lots of genuine suspense.
It's effective based on how much the audience gets to know Lauren all the way through her predicament, but also given that the inspiration for the film arises from true events. The end coda leaves the viewer with the message that incarcerated youths caught in this system are likely to become repeat offenders, based on the physical and sexual abuse they are subjected to while in these centres. While its only a film that takes liberties with real events and victims of abuse, The Archer provides a message for strength and empowerment within women, against an unfair and unjust system.
By taking on a serious issue and spinning it into a pulse-pounding action-thriller, in addition to having a great lead performance from Bailey Noble, The Archer is worthy of a recommendation and one of the best narrative films playing in SXSW this year.