A woman on a crowded New York subway is sexually assaulted in plain sight.

Genre: Drama

Length: 05:52

Free To View

4 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Joy Jorgenson,

Director/s : Charlotte Wells, 

Writer/s : Charlotte Wells, 

Actor/s : Thea Brooks, 


A short film about abuse

It looks like not much happens. After swimming laps in the pool, a young woman takes a subway home. During the ride, a man’s hand touches hers as he reaches for the grab rail, so she has to alter her grip. Then his arm brushes hers, skin to skin. At what point is she allowed to be uncomfortable? His toe presses on her heel, his body pushes into her back as if forced by other passengers.

Other women notice something but do nothing. Neither does she, she just quits the train at the next stop and catches another, knowing that any of the new people she’s forced – again – to be close to, could be about to do the same thing. Hardened, she copes.

Laps is superbly shot on the crowded subway system, notably through the train windows as she gets on her second train. It must have taken some organising. There is sophisticated editing too, capturing the rhythm and lights of underground trains and crowds, making the familiar unsettling.

What is the significance of the swimming? That she is strong and capable, that the water is like a crowd, and she will let it flow over her when she wishes? That she’s not unsociable, as she says hello to another swimmer? That each subway journey is another lap, another trial? That we should look at her demeanour as she showers, compared with her demeanour as she collects herself having fled the train?

And what is her demeanour anyway? There are no tears, no anger, no outrage, just a kind of confused numbness. She never saw his face, never wanted to, but that meant he never had to see her eyes. Post Weinstein, maybe next time (for there will be another lap), she will turn and tell the abuser to back off, with a capital F.