Emily and Danny Bowman have a 4 year old daughter. Family friends Bek and Joel Chalmers have a couple of sons. The kids play together, the parents drink together, it’s an easy if not intimate friendship that all have enjoyed…until the Bowmans’ daughter claimed that the Chalmers’ son has touched her inappropriately. The little girl has been in therapy this past month, and today she’s out with her grandmother. Emily (Matilda Ridgway) and Danny (Mark Leonard Winter) are at home, relaxing poolside when Bek (Geraldine Hakewill) and Joel (Tom Wren) drop by unexpectedly, catching them unawares.
Bek and and Joel were horrified, of course, to hear what their son had done. But after a month’s consideration, they’ve decided their initial reaction was rash. They now believe their son to be innocent, and are here to persuade the Bowmans to leave his name off the report. Joel is in government and suspects there would be repercussion to his career. As you might expect, Emily and Danny aren’t too fond of this abdication of responsibility, and aren’t at all comfortable with the Chalmers’ motivations.
Disclosure is not about the event itself; in fact, we hardly meet the children and we never see the incident. Instead, we deal with its fallout. We see two sets of parents each wanting to do right by their child, and each bringing their own personal histories and beliefs into the fray. The poolside confrontation turns rather vicious and we see how quickly a friendship can go from cordial to sour. Of course, even the couples themselves are not in perfect agreement – Danny feels more lenient toward this “good family” while Emily worries about the next victim. The entire situation is wired with explosives and everyone’s holding a trigger.
Writer-director Michael Bentham keeps the truth in his own pocket. The rest of us merely get two versions of the same story, and it’s up to us to decide whether we will take a little girl at her word. This absence of certainty only helps Bentham’s minimalist style feel taut and tense the whole way through. The talented cast make their broad characters feel real, and exposed. Every puckered mouth, every arched brow gives us an additional layer tipping the viewer’s scale of justice in one direction or the other.
And of course there’s the big picture here, the collective response to trauma and how the undermining not to mention denial of pain can quickly tear a community asunder, and that veneer of politeness cracks wide open. We are all hanging on by mere threads.
Michael Bentham’s Disclosure is available on VOD today.