(Written by Allison Brown)
Be forewarned: When It Melts is not a light watch. It is one of the most disturbing and numbing dramas I have seen in ages. It is vital that whatever distributor eventually commits to this provides a content warning for rape, child molestation and neglect, self-harm, and depicted animal cruelty. The story is told from the point of view of a 30-something woman, Eva (Charlotte De Bruyne, Amber Metdepenningen), reflecting on her toxic childhood. Her mother (Naomi Velissariou) is a neglectful and unloving drunk, the kind who thinks it is a great idea to utterly ravage her daughter’s hair to get rid of lice. Both parents are constantly absorbed in their own bickering and fights, leaving Eva and her sister, Tess (Amber Metdepenningen, Femke Van der Steen), to their own devices.
To entertain herself, thirteen-year-old Eva links up with two other boys of a similar age in her town, Tim (Anthony Vyt, Spencer Bogaert) and Laurens (Matthijs Meertens, Simon Van Buyten), deeming themselves “the three musketeers.” Tim is equally disregarded by his parents; his brother, Jan, recently passed away due to a freak accident, and he is inadvertently blamed.
Unfortunately, the neglect has devastating effects. The boys convince Eva to participate in a game to satisfy their horny adolescent appetite. She is coerced into recruiting girls to a private area, where she tests them with a riddle while her friends observe. Of course, if a girl is present, these young ladies will be more willing to go to a sketchy place.
The riddle, which is already disconcerting for impressionable preteens, is as follows: “Someone has hung himself in an empty room. No furniture. Nothing. Under him, there is just a large puddle of water. What happened?” To no surprise, the underage girls always fail to come up with the correct answer. Their punishment? They must remove an item of clothing with every wrong guess. If they give up, they are subjected to even worse punishment.
Once When It Melts gets dark, the story gets more and more uncomfortable with every passing second until it comes to a head. Upon completion, I sat in silence for a long duration of time, not knowing how to move forward mentally. The tragic full circle moment in the final few minutes is perfectly told to depict the emotional stress and hardship she dealt with from her experience. If one still wants to go ahead and watch this painful, yet poignant film, prepare to be emotionally wrecked.
When It Melts premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.