Movie review: The Invisible Man

A young person stands with the silhouette of The Invisible Man behind her, used to represent the theme of domestic violence. She is wearing a broken heart necklace and there are hand prints in the background

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T/W: This article includes references to domestic violence and trauma

Intimate partner violence in The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man (2020) is a horror/ thriller movie that is loosely based on the book of the same name by H. G. Wells. Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia Kass, an architect who attempts to leave the abusive relationship she has with her controlling boyfriend, Adrian, by fatally drugging him and escaping from their house one night. However, contrary to everyone else, Cecilia thinks that Adrian is still alive and is in some way using an invisible suit to torture her.

The whole movie is shrouded in uncertainty. No one, including Cecilia’s sister, believes that Adrian is still alive, although they do trust her about the intimate partner violence. It makes you question – how would you get people to believe you? Cecilia does everything she can to make people realise that Adrian is not dead, and yet they still don’t believe her.

The representation of survivors of domestic violence

In the first half of the movie, it is easy to assume the possibility of it all being in Cecilia’s head – in fact, I sometimes wondered if it was a figment of her imagination. Perhaps Cecilia is so traumatised from the relationship that, even if Adrian did die, she may have still believed he was there ‘in spirit’.

A trauma response is portrayed in the way that Cecilia feels too afraid to walk to the mailbox from the house, and her suspecting that Adrian is still alive and haunting her could be an extension of this reaction to her trauma. Although Cecilia has escaped from an isolated house right next to the sea, she is still isolated and alone in her beliefs about Adrian. It is almost as if nothing has changed.

Even so, Cecilia is determined not to be gaslighted and totally backs herself up throughout the whole movie. The filmmakers did a good job of showing her vulnerability in a subtle way; yet she is still strong, managing to leave Adrian by herself without external support. I think the portrayal of her character in this way proves that Cecilia is not painted as the ‘typical’ domestic abuse survivor, for example someone who is unable to leave their harmful relationship due to embarrassment, for fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, the wish to avoid legal intrusions, or the belief that abuse is unavoidable and universal. Instead, Cecilia takes the situation into her own hands, being unafraid to share her experiences and seek help, which I thought was a positive aspect of the movie.

Gender and domestic violence

However, like other movies in popular culture, The Invisible Man displayed the abusive relationship as male to female. It would have been great to offer another perspective, since although people most likely to experience it are women, domestic violence can happen in any relationship, regardless of gender, ethnicity, income level, religion, education or sexual orientation.

Anyhow, we never get to see the full relationship between Cecilia and Adrian, so what happened between them within the confines of their home remains a total mystery, even at the end of the movie. The audience is only ever given one side of the story – Cecilia’s – thus there is a lot that remains unanswered. We never find out for sure if the man in the invisible suit was Adrian after all.

Conclusion

Overall, this movie is complicated yet enjoyable, and has multiple layers to its plot and characters which provide lots to think about. Where there is an imbalance of power, it may be abused, and it is this, coupled with society’s tolerance, which has allowed domestic violence to flourish. Touching on the prejudiced attitudes towards women and the devastating impacts of not being believed, The Invisible Man plays on many societal issues and themes affecting today’s world, highlighting how sometimes we can never fully know the truth, even though we think we do.

If you need support with domestic violence, you’re not alone and we’re here for you. Contact The Mix for free and confidential support.

Read our article on domestic violence.

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Next Steps

  • Solace Women's Aid find creative and innovative ways to support thousands of women, children and young people each year from prevention and crisis to recovery and independence.
  • Refuge offers advice and support to victims of domestic violence. 0808 2000 247
  • Call the Sexual Violence Alliance on 01603 667687 for support and advice for women and men who are victims of sexual or domestic violence.
  • Women's aid protects women from domestic violence. Call their 24-hour helpline on 0808 2000 247.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

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Updated on 08-Oct-2021

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