Review: Miranda’s Victim


Patricia Weir is a shy, sexually inexperienced high school girl in Phoenix in 1963. She has a hectoring mother who is always after her to be prim and proper, and to be mindful of what the rest of society thinks of her.

One late Saturday night, Patricia is on a bus on her way home from her job at a local movie theater. She gets off the bus and begins her short walk home when she is grabbed, bound and thrown into the back seat of a car. She’s driven to the desert, sexually assaulted at knife point, then driven back to where she was abducted.

Despite her mother’s warnings, and with her older sister’s support, Patricia reports the rape to the police. Two sympathetic detective are assigned to the case and before long arrest a man who is tried and convicted for kidnapping and rape. His name is Ernesto Miranda.

You’ve probably never heard of Patricia Weir, but you know Ernesto Miranda. Eventually, his case reached the Supreme Court, where it was overturned and the “Miranda Rights” were created.

This film presents, for the first time, the backstory to Patricia’s ordeal, the societal rejection she endured in her fight for justice, and the people involved in both getting her that justice and establishing the protections for people arrested for crimes they may or may not have committed.

Director Michelle Danner (“The Runner”) has elicited the appropriate performances from her actors: shy, terrified, but with a core of steel from Abigail Breslin (Patricia – “Canyon del Muerto”); classic machismo reactions from Patricia’s husband, Charles (Josh Bowman – “Level Up”); arrogance and aggressive competence from ACLU attorney John Flynn (Ryan Phillippe – “The Locksmith”); and desperate, life-resentful concern from her mother (Mirielle Enos – “If I Stay”); among many others.

Cinematography and music are excellent (a number of familiar ’50s-’60s hits), and the pacing is great – the over two hours passed unnoticed as the cast and crew wove this entrancing fact-based tale.

In addition to the stories of the people behind the “Miranda Rights” case, we also get a view into a different world – even for those of us who lived through it. This is the world where women are clearly subservient to men – where even the most innocent of victims becomes an “untouchable” in the eyes of society. Where a man can shout orders to a wife and berate her with “why buy a cow when you can get the milk for free?” in response to hearing she had been raped. Those days may seem gone, but in many places, and behind closed doors, they still exist. Recent changes in our society make that evident, and films like this, that show that brutality in its raw ugliness, are important reminders of how far we’ve come in one sense, and how little we’ve traveled in another. Patricia’s mother represents every woman who lived at that time, knew it was a man’s world, and that women held a second class position in it.

Some delights along the way are the cameo and near cameo parts played by Andy Garcia as Miranda’s earnest but weary public defender, Kyle McLachlan as Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, Luke Wilson as a dedicated prosecutor, and Donald Sutherland as a concerned and compassionate judge.

This is an excellent film, well worth your attention.

Runtime: Two hours, seven minutes
Availability: In theaters Oct. 6, 2023

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