Originally produced two years ago as “One Minute to Nine,” this documentary finally arrives at HBO with a somewhat more in-your-face title — and, in a stark, spare way that has come to characterize the pay channel, delivers a pretty bracing wallop. A harrowing portrait of domestic abuse, the project draws heavily on video shot by the dead abuser, as his wife, Wendy Maldonado, spends her final days of freedom before going to jail for his murder. The net result is every bit as chilling and depressing as one might expect.
In 2005, Maldonado dialed 911 in tears, confessing that she’d killed her husband with a hammer (still photos dutifully show the blood-stained mattress). When asked whether he had abused her, she responded, “Every fucking day of my life.”
Filmmaker Tommy Davis then proceeds to detail how the Oregon woman suffered at the hands of her spouse, Aaron, who had a penchant for videotaping his wife and four sons — along with his more childish and vulgar pursuits, like playing with a deer carcass. In those clips we see the fear he inadvertently captured in their little flinches and darting eyes.
In between, Maldonado prepares to be incarcerated, while the family and neighbors discuss what they witnessed, and how it was allowed to continue, without intervention. The doc concludes in court, as the judge addresses the tragedy of the situation by saying, “Nobody has won. Nobody is getting away with anything.”
Nobody will come away from the movie filled with holiday cheer, either, but it’s a sobering look at the consequences of bad choices — from Maldonado in her teens marrying a guy who turned out to be a psychopath, to enduring having her teeth knocked out because she didn’t perceive herself as having other options.
Based on the evidence presented here, the so-called victim in the criminal proceedings certainly appears to have gotten what he deserved. Whether Wendy did is a question that will likely haunt viewers as long as those grainy images in Aaron’s homevideos.