top of page


Updated: Jul 23, 2021

"Donna: Stronger Than Pretty is based around the true story of Director Jaret Martino's mother (who is sadly not with us anymore) and her experience of escaping domestic abuse. This is an incredibly important subject at the moment due to Covid and the lock-downs, domestic violence is on the rise.

Donna’s love story with Nick begins so sweetly. He charms her with all the right words and all the right actions that make it seem so easy and so possible to be happy. Nick’s words and actions change and become so abusive on every level that he makes it nearly impossible for Donna or their children to love him, or like him. As he makes one bad decision after another, Donna is forced to question her own bad decisions and why and how she both sacrifices her dreams and enables Nick’s bad behaviour." Excerpt from Press Release

Many of us know of someone who has experienced domestic abuse at some stage in their life, or have heard about someone.Many have been through this most insidious emotional roller coaster of life or watched a loved one go through.

This film, captured the lives, experiences and stories of so many women, in Donna, who have valiantly struggled, fought and come out triumphant. Triumphant doesn’t necessarily mean with bells and whistles. To me it simply means, to be able to make incredibly difficult choices and find the courage to walk away. These are the ones we call strong and whom we celebrate, like Donna. Then there are those who don’t make it, whose souls die in an environment that eventually pervades each living cell and their every waking moment like a disease, until they know longer have or know they have the will to run, to leave, to escape. Yet this too takes courage doesn’t it? Courage to stay in a situation where you just don’t have the strength to walk away, courage to watch your soul die, whilst always wishing for different, for better.

This story gave us an insight into the dynamics of love, being in love, thinking we are in love and then like a deck of cards how a love that is so beautiful could turn into a vial of something so poisonous and even may I say even insidious. What struck me about Donna was her silent resilience, her incredible balancing act and juggling of life through constant tiredness and stress. Even in those moments when she felt she had no-where to go, no-where to run and with the world saying ‘stay with him, he’s a provider, he’s the children’s father. Put up, Shut Up because I’ve done it’ she bit back. Her resilience was driven by holding onto her dreams, and to provide and make safe an environment for her children. Even when her dreams started to fade, being a single mother with three children in tow, she constantly galvanised to keep going, to find a solution and to never give in. She had a few friends who stood by her through thick and thin. Friends who encouraged her not to put up with, but who also offered support where she knew they would stand by her no matter what. Sometimes, you just need one person to believe in you, to give you the faith to fight.

This was a mother’s instinctual mode to protect her children and to provide for them. To buffer a lot of their pain, to try to make their world as ‘normal’ as possible. At one time she was working three jobs.

Donna had seen what broken relationships did, in terms of her own upbringing, and that was reflected again in the marriage of her mother and father-in-law and in her own marriage. The drinking, the dictatorship, the slapping, the disrespect, the tears, the hiding, the suppressing of emotions, the affairs. The battle between her love of a man she no longer recognised, the battle to believe he would change and the nightmare would end, the battle between taking the children away from their father and the battle between knowing that if she didn't she could well end up dead but also the shame and guilt of knowing that her children were in a toxic environment, watching, observing, witnessing.

It was interesting to see how her situation gave her the opportunity to grow closer to her parents, especially her mother. Her parents too had a volatile relationship. Yet through Donna's situation they both started to heal, they both recognised how destructive their relationship had been, and they came together to support and defend their daughter, but also through her and her situation they grew to respect each other more.

There was a part in the film where after her husband had beaten her and she was sitting at the table of her mother-in-law bruised and battered with a bandaged nose…Donna's mother-in-law asked her to give her son another chance because ‘he loved his family, he