Set on the 3rd of June in 2017, the film follows a twenty-five-year-old named Reality (Sydney Sweeney). One day, Reality returns home after picking up some groceries and is surprised to find two FBI agents waiting for her outside her home. Both men present their identification, state their names- Agent Garrick (Josh Hamilton) and Agent Taylor (Marchánt Davis)- and explain that they have a search warrant for her home. Reality is stumped as to why both FBI agents would want to search her house, but they explain the reason relates to possible mishandling of classified information.
While the FBI prepare for deeper discussions, small talk occurs with Reality. We learn that Reality lives independently, apart from her animals which she adores. She has health commitments to yoga, an Air Force background and the ability to speak multiple languages. All these questions asked by the FBI agents feel uncomfortable for Reality, but she co-operates with the two agents. We also better understand more about Reality’s job as a Farsi translator, where she must overlook many documents each day. Soon Reality is invited to an empty room in her home with only the two agents present to continue questioning her while other agents continue to search her home. The question is, did Reality leak classified information?
Reality is based on a true story and actual events for those unaware. The film acknowledges its source of information, helping them keep the movie as factual as possible. The audience is told that “…the FBI documented the following events with an audio recorder. The dialogue in this movie is taken entirely from the transcript of that recording”. The film is very clever, and at various times it will cut to the audio recording to reduce stimulus while viewers form their opinion at crucial moments. Actual photographs of Reality and the events that took place all in one day are also shown.
Personally, this is a story that I needed to familiarise myself with. From the opening, where the FBI introduced themselves to Reality, who seemed baffled by the visit, I found myself highly curious to discover what was happening and whether Reality had any dark secrets. The location for the vast majority is within one room, and the film is dialogue heavy. Despite this, I did not feel bored or disinterested, and instead, I was surprised when the credits began rolling down my screen as the runtime was not even noticed or felt.
Performances here are great, particularly from Sydney Sweeney as Reality. While I need to become more familiar with the actress’s past work in films, I found her performance here impressive and highly believable in every way. Her mannerisms and the way she responds or observes her surroundings are all aspects that I found very enjoyable. Her performance led to me being very engaged with the story and plot, and I felt like I was watching the real thing on the big screen.
Overall, if you’re unfamiliar with the actual story surrounding Reality Winner, please experience this film for yourself without knowing anything about its story. While the film is set in one location for the vast majority, I found myself highly invested and deeply engaged due to the film’s style and story, and I felt like I was watching the real thing unfold before me. Sydney Sweeney’s performance as Reality was excellent in all areas, and I was so engaged that I didn’t feel the runtime at all. Reality is a dramatic film filled with many twists and turns. It’s even more uncomfortable when viewers learn it’s all based on actual events.
Reality (2023) is Available in Australian Cinemas from June 29th!