Directed by: Maria Schrader

Written by: Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Zoe Kazan, Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle

Rating: [4/5]

Shining the light in the darkest corners where those most powerful don’t want anyone peeking serves as the highest ideal of journalism’s purpose in our society. Individuals who will dig up the facts and present it all to the populace for them to make what they will of what has been gathered. However, as with most things in life, it’s never as easy as it should be. She Said depicts the struggles of telling these stories, especially when those in power have the means to silence those who dare speak.

Following the 2016 election, The New York Times focused on systemic workplace sexual harassment occurring in different industries. Jodi Cantor (Zoe Kazan) begins following the breadcrumbs of sexual harassment and assault complaints levied towards infamous Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Along with fellow reporter Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan), they try to piece together a piece that will shed light but find struggles in getting the survivors to come forward on the record. 

Films about journalism typically land favorably with me because I appreciate the work and the craft involved in putting together a story most people will read a headline for and move on. In all honesty, I do the same thing all of the time. Hours and hours of painstaking research, due diligence, and fact-checking, which could so easily be swiped away from. This much-maligned group of professionals do such an invaluable service to society and the work done to raise a microphone to an issue that impacted many and was contained under wraps by powerful individuals in She Said demonstrates the emotional toll it takes and everything that goes into crafting something credible. 

It would be one thing to post a story with anonymous sources giving legitimate testimony, but with it comes the implied lack of credibility of an individual not putting their name to their statement. However, in this imperfect world, when taking on individuals like Weinstein, who will retaliate viciously for coming forward and attaching their name to something against him, it makes sense why many women impacted by his actions legitimately feared coming forward. After all, the New York Times would not provide legal support if they were to be taken to court for defamation. These survivors have everything to lose and the only thing they could potentially gain is justice being brought, which in most cases does not occur because of a layer of protection around these powerful men. This puts Twohy and Kantor in a difficult position but the tender and sympathetic manner they take on these obstacles and working with these women indicates a level of care that makes it obvious this feature was written and directed by women. 

Having women tell women’s stories, especially when they are as sensitive as the material covered in this feature is so vital and this feature serves as a great example of why. When discussing the atrocious acts of Weinstein, the depiction and presentation of it all gets handled in a delicate manner that still conveys the horrors and does not lean into the exploitative. It gives these women the space to be vulnerable with these journalists and there’s immense power in how this gets embedded into the feature. It makes it for such a rewarding experience as a whole and one where the women of the story are centered along with the process of putting together this piece, which needed to be airtight in its sourcing and corroboration. 

Focusing so much on the process does leave this film feeling fairly light in the character development of Twohy and Kantor but that never feels like an objective for these journalism films. The same critiques are not levied towards other strong films like Spotlight and All the President’s Men especially when you have two fantastic actors at the heart of this feature in Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan. Two individuals take on the moments where their characters get their personal lives explored more and make the most of it. Whether it be Twohey’s postpartum depression or Kantor’s struggle in balancing this story and being a mother, this feature allows for these two to be humans in their own right but also fully present in putting together this all-important story. Both actors shine at their brightest when having conversations with the survivors and the empathy they have for them shines. 

It can be argued this film was made far too soon with much of Weinstein’s horrors against women still being revealed to this day, but as a story of journalism focusing on the idea of stopping powerful individuals from continually getting away with workplace harassment, this is an incredibly strong feature. She Said contains several moments that peak on an emotional level, but most importantly, give voice to women in an area where even when they speak out they do not receive the care they deserve. This film skewers this practice well and examines the structure in place meant to silence survivors that very much remain in place today.

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