Eye For Film >> Movies >> Tell Tale Signs (2014) Film Review
Tell Tale Signs
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
When we talk about child abuse, we tend to talk about children. That might sound obvious, but the point is that people who have been abused grow up, and what has happened to them affects other aspects of their lives. Some of the choose to become parents themselves. This Scottish documentary introduces us to several such people, who talk about their hopes and fears and the extra difficulties they have faced in raising their children.
Although there is no Scotland-specific data, the NSPCC estimates that in England and Wales one in 20 children is sexually abused. Many go on to suffer post traumatic stress disorder and related mental health problems. Coping with parenthood in these circumstances can be difficult enough, but the survivors here report other problems - flashbacks caused by seeing their children naked, and the fear that they might become abusers themselves. Seeing these issues discussed calmly and rationally will be a great help to others in the same position and provide some reassurance that it's possible not only to survive child abuse but - even if trauma symptoms persist - to go on and live a full life without passing on harm to others.
Despite the prevalence of child sexual abuse, it is rarely discussed, with the voices of those directly affected even less likely to be heard. In part this is because of the stigma they still carry, with strangers often blaming them or considering them dangerous; a stigma that thrives on that silence. It's impressive to see the participants in this film not only talking directly to camera but allowing the camera inside their homes, giving us a picture of who they are in their private lives. There is a sense of nothing being closed off, but the film is never prurient (and most survivors will be able to watch it without problems). These very ordinary, grounded people could be anybody, which is perhaps the point. Through the weight of their sorrow shines the joy their families have given them in spite of everything.
Alongside parenting the film tackles issues such as the difficulty of coming out as an abuse survivor later in life, telling children about it, and finding means of managing ongoing depression and anxiety. There is no pretence that everyone will be cured of these problems but there is, overall, an optimistic tone. This is a difficult thing to achieve with a subject of this type and, modest as it is, this is a film with a lot to recommend it.Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2014