Phoenix Rising (2022, Miniseries) Review: The bedtime story Evan Rachel Wood tells her son starts at the end. “I know things have been a little scary lately,” she says on the edge of the bed. “But you know what? You don’t need to worry about that anymore because the good guys will win.” Long ago, these heroes used to carry the precepts of virility and moral integrity next to their holster, but now those who triumph are damsels in distress cutting the wind on horseback like Dolores Abernathy.

In the futuristic western of the Westworld series, Wood’s character goes from a constantly violated android to the leader of a revolution. From a different spectrum, her interpreter would find inspiration in that factional trajectory to deal with the consequences of physical and psychological abuse she had suffered over the years. Violent delights, then, were confined to the past. After having their life rewritten according to the sadism of others, the moment had come to take charge of her narrative and influence more people to do the same.

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The day after the American elections in 2016, Rolling Stone magazine received an unusual email unrelated to politics. A famous woman wrote a letter claiming to have been attacked twice by a significant other and a bar owner. After that, Evan would come out as the sender in an interview for the same vehicle, but it would take her six years to name rockstar Marilyn Manson as one of the aggressors finally. The tortuous path that culminated in this day is portrayed throughout the two-part documentary Phoenix Rising, available on HBO.

Known for her provocative productions, director Amy Berg chooses to highlight the victim’s report instead of mediating different points of view. Counting on in-depth interviews and archive material full of private photographs, videos, and clippings, the puzzle she assembles may anguish a more emphatic audience. It is because despising the narrative’s empowering aspect always leads us towards the unstoppable chaos of a butterfly effect.

Phoenix Rising 2022

Sometimes even a small talk at the Chateau Marmont could have drastic consequences in the future. Relying on a teenage diary, Wood reminisces about how her life would completely change since the night she met Brian Werner on the hotel’s terrace. At the time, their relationship with other people was put aside in exchange for an illusion of compatibility that brought them closer within a few months.

The awakening to a romance is represented in a graphic metaphor where Lewis Carol’s Alice has her mouth invaded by tentacles that emerge from the darkness. Eighteen-year-old Evan had never been kissed by a man twenty years older, much less by one so controversial. Nothing but a shared life would convince her that what happened on stage did not stay there. Regardless of the spotlight, that pale parasite with blood-red lips and shadow eyes remained the only facet of his monstrous self.

Manson committed several atrocities against his then-girlfriend. Most of them had stayed under the bed for a long time except the first one, which had an audience. In 2007, the couple would have simulated sex scenes for the singer’s music video. However, in the recent documentary, Wood revealed that he coerced her into acting while performing penetration without consent during filming. From this moment on, harm reached a higher level.

There were days when she was monitored at home, subjected to low temperatures, deprived of sleep, or sedated with drugs. It made her more vulnerable to rape and disorientation, yet a poem shown on our screen as evidence hints at a lucid desire for life. As frightening as that nightmare sounded, someday, it would still be possible to wake up and know exactly where to go.

It took four and a half years of wandering aimlessly until she finally found a direction. Since the abusive relationship had come to a definite end, the actress decided to fight alongside other victims of domestic violence. Berg’s footage captures the moment they join forces in favor of the Phoenix Act, a bill that extends the statute of limitations for crimes against women in California. This had such repercussions that the police decided to open an investigation against Marylin; hence Evan was advised to move away for safety reasons.

Once in the countryside, a camera displays two versions of herself; one of them walks on the leaves accumulated in the backyard, strokes the dog, and sits on the porch holding a drink. The other is more self-aware. It strains the glass with both hands, takes a deep breath, and worries about the loved ones, but its greatest fear is being hunted by the consciousness of what happened.

Before pulling back the blanket, either one or the other should have warned her son that modern heroines are constantly healing the wounds of old duels. In Westworld, Dolores’ insight into the abuse she was subjected to comes along with anguish that turned her into a more merciless being and guided a revenge path. Similarly, past memories distort Wood’s perception of the world.

Although she currently counts on professional help to alleviate stress, depression, and anxiety disorders, nothing will ever be the same. Her surroundings became hostile due to a trauma that lingers like a ceaseless flame. At the end of the day, rising from the ashes, it leaves behind is not enough. What defines one’s ability to survive, in fact, is the strength with which they stand and walk on these ashes even though the sparks of the recent fire still burn under their feet.

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Phoenix Rising (2022) External Links: IMDb, Rotten tomatoes
Where to watch Phoenix Rising (2022)

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