felt_1Year: 2015
Director: Jason Banker
Writer(s): Jason Banker, Amy Everson
Region of Origin: US
Rating: N/A
Digital, Color, 80 mins

Synopsis: A woman creates an alter ego in hopes of overcoming the trauma inflicted by men in her life. (Source)

They say you never understand what a person goes through unless you’ve lived in their shoes. Felt, a collaborative film between artist Amy Everson and director Jason Banker makes us feel what it’s like to be a woman, casually and constantly discredited, objectified and psychologically tormented just because of your gender. The portrait on display here is truly horrifying, featuring a strong conceit that rips apart modern masculinity and gender injustice in a world where rape is normalized and fodder for a good joke. Not quite a revenge film, this subversive psychological thriller is as taut and harrowing as it gets, lead by a powerful lead performance and artful visual execution that takes us into a nightmare of which there may be no escape.

The story involves a young woman named Amy (Amy Everson). Sexually traumatized by a past event, she’s paralyzed, psychologically and emotionally, unable to socially engage with the world around her. Her life consists of handful of close friends which she keeps at arms length, all while leading a private life involving homemade, anatomically correct body suits which distort the male form. Frolicking in the woods, Amy wears her suits like superhero costumes, transforming into an alter ego that provides a twisted sense of power and respite from the hard truth of reality. Then, one day she meets a man named Kenny (Kentucker Audley), a seemingly great guy. After a bit of hesitation, Amy opens up to her newfound friend, possibly starting a period of healing – until a hideous revelation sends everything spiraling.

From the film’s opening moments to its explosive end, Banker ties a psychological noose around his subject and the audience with a sharp, precise dissection of a woman on the edge of personal oblivion. Never, ever exploitive and reverent to the sensitive subject matter, he really digs deep into Amy’s fractured world to expose a corrupt culture and marginalized existence. Cold photography juxtaposes striking red focal points, the atmosphere swings from hopeful candor to dread in the blink of an eye and the intimacy of Amy’s life gets progressively more claustrophobic as she transforms into what she hates most. On every level, the film is an inextricable mix of cathartic art and damning tragedy that can’t easily be shaken.

felt_3Despite the film’s visually rich execution and smart writing, it’s star Amy Everson who makes us truly feel it with a brave and emotionally raw performance. Mixing performance art sequences with stripped down honesty, she’s hypnotic amidst the film’s rising tension, yet most importantly relatable and fully formed. You really get a sense that there’s a lot going on underneath the surface, and it’s a nuance that Everson renders with restraint and focused fragility.

When all is said and done, Felt is a necessary film for the increasingly hostile culture we live in. It doesn’t give us all the answers, nor should it. Instead, it’s a twisted piece of art that sheds light on casual gender inequality in a devastating way. Just as Amy uses her art to work through her trauma, the film is also weirdly cathartic, using the medium as a way to dissect and smartly initiate a conversation for a problem that most would rather ignore, and do ignore on a daily basis. Strong stuff – not easy to stomach, but important all the same.

SG