Felt opens up with Amy (played by Amy Everson, co-writer) in tears, clearly having just suffered some form of tragedy or abuse. There are hints and references as to what that was exactly, but we’ll get into those details in a minute. The plot centers instead around Amy’s struggle to cope and her journey to reacquaint herself with the rest of the world. She seems perfectly happy to bury herself in her artwork, a mixture of costume making and performance that serves as more of a personal escape than anything else. Her friends are not having this, though. Despite some protesting they get her back onto the dating scene with mixed results.
Let’s address the elephant in the room right now. This film is about rape, but the way that it handles the subject matter offers a rather different focus than how we’ve seen it tackled before. Movies like I Spit On Your Grave and A Serbian Film treat the act either as a plot device or something used for pure shock value. The television show Game of Thrones has come under fire for that recently. It’s uncomfortable to sit through, and the filmmakers know that, so it’s an easy way to raise the stakes. What Felt does differently is that it never actually portrays the act itself, instead shifting the focus onto the aftermath and the culture that supports it. Seeing how much it can completely tear a person down sends a far more effective message than a few minutes of torture possibly could.
First of all, it’s heavily implied that the trauma that Amy is recovering from is sexual in nature. You’ve probably guessed that by now. There is a passing mention of her ex-boyfriend who her friend “didn’t like” and the artwork that she makes is extremely phallic. In fact, the costumes that she constructs and dresses up in have her parading around the forest in a skin-tight flesh tone leotard complete with a drawn-on beard and a homemade penis. When she speaks at length later on about how the world treats women differently “because they don’t have a dick,” it’s clear why she makes these outfits. The lines of reality and fantasy blur for her as a means of coping, and the costumes serve as a way for her to feel how the other half lives. They give her some sense of the power that she has been stripped of.
Much of the movie deals with her dating life, or her attempts to have one. We are immediately presented with a series of men that each have their own issues, though it all boils down to a complete lack of respect for the opposite sex. The most memorable and infuriating part of this whole thing is when her date tries to convince her that roofies are a myth by telling her that “it’s just something that women say.” He attempts to brush it off as a joke, but I already wanted to punch him in the face by then.At this point, enter Kenny. Kenny becomes Amy’s new boyfriend for the second half of the film and is immediately presented as totally different from the other guys. He’s much quieter and less rude. He attempts to put a move on her during their date, but when she makes it clear that she doesn’t want that, he backs off and acknowledges it. He seems to actually care about what makes her comfortable and he seems to actually care about her consent. I specifically say “he seems to,” because after every other guy that we’ve seen her interact with, the film had me questioning his motives. Is he really a genuinely good and respectful person or is he putting on an act to get in her pants? That question is kind of the point, and the way they subconsciously wormed that into my head may be the closest I’ll ever get to understanding how dating works from a female perspective. For that I applaud the film. Explaining it is one thing. Showing it is one thing. But they were actually able to get me to feel it.
Amy is quite good in the lead role, and for somebody with little to no formal acting experience her performance is really impressive. She’s shy and awkward, not really taking anything too seriously. This kind of character easily could have come off as really obnoxious, but she manages to stay likable. Part of this may have to do with our understanding of why she is the way she is, but Everson definitely sells it. The moments where she needs to actually open up and bear her soul are memorable and she really manages to hit the right notes in those scenes. The whole film rests on her shoulders so this was pretty crucial. You basically see everything from her perspective and she’s in pretty much every scene.
The whole film has a mumblecore style to it, and your enjoyment of the directing may rely on how you feel about that brand of filmmaking in general. A lot of the shots are handheld and things often shift out of focus. Personally I enjoy the style and felt it worked really well for the subject matter present here. In particular the close ups to a lot of the toys and artwork in Amy’s bedroom were interesting to see and early on they left hints of what was to come. Tonally, Felt reminded me strongly of Lucky McKee’s May. It’s kind of slow and character focused, with it taking a long time to really get around to any kind of real horror. If I were to present any complaints the ending doesn’t go quite as far as I might have liked it to.
Overall, Felt is a strong movie, but it’s definitely not for everyone. It’s slow and character-driven, so if you like your horror to have blood flying every other minute then you may be disappointed. This isn’t that kind of film. Felt puts issues of gender relations and the dating scene right in your face to the point that you have no choice but to confront rape culture head on. It handles the subject with the kind of subtlety and tact that most others miss completely, and I loved that about it. It’s well-directed, well-acted, and if any of this sounds appealing in the least then you will most certainly enjoy it.
Wicked Rating: 7/10
Director(s): Jason Banker
Writer(s): Jason Banker, Amy Everson
Stars: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Ryan Creighton
Release: July 21, 2015 (VOD)
Studio/ Production Co: Amplify Releasing
Length: 79 Minutes