I’m a sucker for good movie trailers. It’s why I was excited to see crime drama, Victoria. As soon as I pressed play on the trailer, I heard Nils Frahm’s haunting club music. It’s dark, and dope. I was already hooked.
Victoria's like the trailer music, fast and foreboding. And, like the continuity of the song’s beat, the entire film is one - single - shot. It’s two straight hours of a girl’s roller-coaster-encounter with some sketchy dudes and their alarming evening plans. But the one thing missing from the trailer is the tenderness and intimacy of the leading lady Victoria (Laia Costa, Palm Trees in the Snow) herself.
Victoria has a talent for playing the piano. She reveals that she wasn’t good enough for the music school she attended, which sounds like an insanely competitive environment. (I picture the movie Whiplash as she talks about it.) The competition made her fellow students her enemies. She says it even caused her to want her own friends to fail.
Over the course of the film, she manages to find new friends and create a meaningful bond with them - just not in a way she ever could have imagined.
Companionship is something Victoria didn’t have before, spending all her waking hours practicing piano in an environment for which she could never be good enough. Now she has it, and with a reckless abandon, there’s no limit to what she’ll do to keep it.
We first meet Victoria in a club, dancing. She goes to the bar and orders a shot, tries to make conversation with the bartender, offers him a drink. I thought, Did she really come to this club alone?
The longer I watched, the more I realized she just wants to be a part of a team, to be wanted and needed. Outside of the club, she meets a band of men who call themselves brothers (though I don’t think they’re actually brothers). They make her smile and laugh, so she sticks with them for the night. They happily welcome her in, and it isn’t long before they start calling her “sister.”
She’s charming, but they’re not. They make jokes that aren’t funny, but they still laugh. They know to be nervous when the cops drive around. I feel like I know these guys from somewhere. Bros. That’s what they are, I think, as I roll my eyes at them for the fourth time. What does she see in them?
One of the brothers, Boxer (Franz Rogowski), owes a gangster who gave him protection while he was in prison for assault. The gangster demands three guys and a driver for some undisclosed purpose, and Fuß (Max Mauff), another brother, is too drunk to come along. Out of desperation, they ask Victoria to drive.
She does. When they get to the gangster, he demands that they rob a bank. They refuse, but he says he’s taking “the bitch” until Boxer pays up. Already mortified that they’ve involved her as much as they have, they immediately concede.
It didn’t take long before my heart was racing along with theirs. What could go wrong with three amateur ruffians and one random chick who works at a cafe robbing a bank spontaneously? A whole hell of a lot!
It forced me to wonder, how far would I go to alleviate loneliness? What would I do to feel needed? What would being wanted make me capable of?
I kept telling Victoria, “Leave! Walk away! You don’t need to stay in this!” (Yeah, I talk at the screen. But it’s okay, I was at home.) I wondered, Where is her agency?! and thought maybe this is a film about a woman being taken advantage of in a man’s world. There’s definitely some of that, but it’s also definitely more than that.
I’ve been in similar situations. I’ve had nights out with a friend at some bar, and we end up following a group to the next one, and then to an apartment. Okay, another drink. It gets late, but anything sounds better than being home alone. By the end of the night, I find myself asking, How did I get here?
For Victoria, it’s not that the brothers are men she can’t say no to; they’re friends she cares about and is ready to risk everything for. This emotional complexity is captured perfectly by Laia Costa’s fantastic performance. She makes Victoria sweet and sincere, and yet so vulnerable at the same time.
As intense as Victoria gets, it never stops being intimately relatable. It begged me to ask, what does Victoria see in these guys? Why doesn’t she leave? The answers to these questions aren’t necessarily logical but are thoroughly human. This was something that drew me in, just as Victoria was drawn to the brothers. We’ve all been there, allowing ourselves to get pulled into something that may not be good for us, but that fulfills our need for something deeply missing in our lives.