A few thoughts on 37...

Or how not to make a "day in the life of a historical event" film.

*Spoilers ahead for 37, Bobby, and Orange is the New Black*

I decided to forego my traditional review format for a little film I watched on Netflix recently called 37. (As I'm sure you'll be able to tell from this post, I would've given it an F)

37 is a fictional account about the large group of bystanders that either saw or heard Kitty Genovese being murdered and did nothing about it. Kitty was a real person, as anyone who has ever taken an American criminal justice class would know and what happened to her was awful. What drew me to select this film? Well, to be honest, I started thinking of Orange is the New Black again, and how upset I was that they killed off Poussey. So when I saw Samira Wiley's face on it, I thought "why not?"

The film tries to make us care. Wiley and Michael Potts play a black couple moving into a white neighborhood in the 60's. Maria Dizzia and Jamie Harrold are absentee parents who punish their kids way too often. Sophia Lillis plays a girl (who clearly has OCD and isn't getting help for it) that lives with her grandparents after her mother did something bad that is never addressed. Kind of interesting, right? Sophia's character is the only one that interacts with Kitty for more than 2 seconds, and only once. 

I've sat on this for a while before writing it. I thought "Am I being too hard on these characters because they ignored a crime?" I don't think so. They're really just terribly written. I need to compare this to another film that was about fictional characters that centered around another real life crime, and that's Bobby, The 2006 film about Bobby Kennedy's murder. I know it wasn't hit with critics. Rotten Tomatoes has the critics score of 46% vs the audience's 72% but I really liked it and compared to 37, it's a masterpiece.

The main thing Bobby did better than 37 was how it tied its characters to RFK. In Bobby we meet people working with his campaign, others who are inspired by him, ones who are dreading the work that comes along with his visit. While RFK is only seen in archived footage, he actually feels like a character. Kitty is a footnote. They didn't need to use her name at all, they could've used her case as inspiration and created someone new, but nope. They dragged her name into this mess.

Another thing is the characters themselves. On paper, their conflicts sound interesting, but the script gives them no weight. The dialogue is stilted, the arguments eventually feel repetitive and forced. It presents far more questions than answers.

Then there's the climax, Kitty's murder, which happens within the last 10 minutes of the film. They at least tried to get the accuracy of how the attack went down, but they take it a step further and make their characters look even dumber than their real life counterparts for ignoring it. (Many thought it was a domestic dispute) Here, a kid who yells outside his window for her murderer to leave her alone is told by his dad to shine his flashlight towards the sink so he can fix it...at 3:00am. Another bystander who sees Kitty bleeding out in the hallway is taken a step further to actually witness her rape as well. And even though it's shot mostly in shadows it feels exploitative. They make little Debbie's grandparents look inept as she runs from their apartment, skipping down the halls at 3:00 am. Then the film tries to absolve all of this by using an "arty" shot of the police lights shining on the apartment building.

The timing of this movie is strange enough, with a documentary from Kitty's brother about trying to find the truth of these claims, The Witness also being released last year. That one is also on Netflix, and if you're going to choose one, go with that. 

I think I'm ranting because I don't have a new Indie Gem to post this week. The last few indie films I've watched haven't been gem worthy. I suppose I could've re-posted the last few since no one read them, but hey, ranting can be therapeutic, right? 

Did you watch this film? What are your thoughts?


  1. Bobby is a film that I absolutely loathe for being so obvious and filled with so much idealism. Yet, I'm sure 37 is much worse so I'm definitely staying away from that as I'm just glad I don't have Netflix nor have any plans to use Netflix.

    1. Netflix is amazing. I remember you didn't like Bobby, this is about 100000 times worse. lol


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