Based on true events, 'The Meeting' has the victim of a brutal sexual assault finally confront her attacker face-to-face nine years after the incident. Ailbhe Griffith (Griffith, in a remarkably brave turn, plays herself) has called a meeting with Martin (Terry O’Neill), who is out on probation, to discuss the attack and the psychological and emotional ramifications of the assault. In attendance is Martin’s probation officer, a mediator, and one supporter each in a nondescript room. Ailbhe has some questions for Martin which have dogged her for nearly a decade…
After a gripping credit sequence, which uses extreme close-ups of the details of the case (highlighting certain words in her report, her underwear, the area where it took place) and the horrific injuries to her body, writer-director Alan Gilsenan then lets the action play out in one room and in real time. 'The Yellow Bittern' and 'Meetings With Ivor' director attempts to get inside the minds of Ailbhe and Martin and the awkward tension in the room: faces can move in and out of focus as the eye centres on different things, sound can be heightened (the drag of a hand across tights, the chirping of birds, the creak of a leather shoe) or momentarily drowned out entirely. A shot may move away from the speaker to the biscuit on the table or the art on the wall. While these cutaways can get in the way at times, Gilsenan has the good sense not to flashback to the attack, allowing the discussion to fill in the blanks.
In what must have been a harrowing experience for Griffith, she remains calm and focused throughout. The time has allowed her to collect her thoughts; she speaks without hate and only in cold facts, recounting the pain, both physical and mental, that the attack caused. She talks about how trusting she was beforehand (she calls herself naïve) and how she sees the world differently now. She is more guarded, perhaps even cynical. She has suffered depression, an eating disorder, and has an obsession with keeping fit. The attack has irreparably changed her forever but this is a cathartic moment for her.
Martin’s introduction speaks volumes. Even though the mediator asks both parties to not to interrupt, Martin, even though he agrees with Ailbhe, interrupts her almost immediately. He only meets her eyes on the rarest occasions. Sitting in a crumbled white shirt, he tries to humanise himself: he did a monstrous act but is no monster. He talks about his family, the guilt he felt and the punishment that was dished out in prison. In his attempts to explain himself he tries to make it about him.
With restrained performances from Griffith and O’Neill (other characters also play their real selves), and delicate dialogue by Gilsenan, 'The Meeting' is a tense and involving affair.