Directed by Jeff Taver | Review by Helen WheelsJeff Taver’s, Down Time is a somber social commentary on the ramifications of long-term domestic abuse. Perhaps it feels this way because the fictional story manifested through a past event that stuck in Taver’s mind. There had once been a husband and wife who lived in his neighborhood. Who, for all intents and purposes appeared to be the ideal couple. The beautiful wife seemed always to be smiling and happy. Taver would see her taking her children to and from school. He rarely saw the husband, but it was apparent by the way the man dressed and carried himself that he was well-off.
Taver tells us that his idyllic vision of the family’s life was shattered one morning when he walked out of his house to find 10 or so police cars parked in front of his neighbor’s home. He found out soon enough that the woman had killed her husband. According to police reports, she had been a victim of domestic abuse. This shocking development spurred Taver to think deeply about how constant mistreatment could drive a person mad, leaving them to take extreme measures to protect themselves.
Down Time is Taver’s examination of a relationship that has a romantic beginning, but over time develops into a codependent existence that ends in violence. Through his character’s narration,we explore the inner workings of a mind that has snapped. We are forced to question the things we are willing to let go in the name of love.
Victoria Tollier is a 46-year-old married woman, with two children. The first time we see her, she looks much younger and is having a one-sided conversation with an unseen observer. From the looks of it, she could be at a casual interview. She’s dressed in office attire and appears to be well educated, exuding confidence. It soon becomes evident that something isn’t quite right. She tenderly describes her children as a teenage son and a six-year-old daughter. However, as she finishes her motherly anecdotes, we see snapshots of young adults who have the same name.We can only assume that these are her actual offspring.
Our suspicion that something is wrong is confirmed when Victoria begins to talk about the relationship she has with her husband. The atmosphere becomes progressively oppressive, culminating in a vacuum like suction into reality. At once we see a woman who is struggling to put together pieces from her fractured mind. She is in an asylum; doctors are restraining her and give her medicine to calm her down. The drug immobilizes Victoria, but her soul does not rest. We are privy to her inner rumination about the fate of her children, and we also see the reality of what has happened to them as a result of their mother stabbing their father to death in front of their eyes.
Taver’s observation about the ramification of domestic violence goes beyond wondering what happens to the victim. He also gives the audience a narrative surrounding the outcome for the secondary victims; the children who are left scarred from the violence.
There’s nothing lighthearted about Down Time. The short film follows the aftermath of domestic violence. Victoria stuffed the offenses down, burying her anger beyond her breaking point, which ultimately led to Down Time, the moment when the victim takes matters into their own hands.
Helen Wheels is an independent filmmaker, freelance writer, and visual artist. She has produced, directed, worked as a set designer and scenic painter, and has been an assistant director on dozens of films. Wheels graduated from Shoreline College with an AAAS in Digital Film Production and is continuing toward her MFA in New Media Communications. Known for her eye to detail and advanced research skills, Wheels is currently researching historical events for her latest script and is in the process of developing her online writing business.