'Felt': AFI Fest Review

Courtesy of AFI Fest
Gender envy rarely gets this literal

Writer-director Jason Banker and artist Amy Everson collaborate on a borderline bizarre psychosexual drama

Filmmaker Jason Banker’s second narrative feature relies heavily on his prior documentary experience for this disturbing portrait of a young woman struggling with the debilitating psychological effects of sexual trauma. The film’s largely improvisational style and DIY production values signal limited art house potential when Amplify releases Felt next year, with marginally better opportunities in digital formats.

As Amy (Amy Everson) tries to make a highly uneven recovery from a series of very bad relationships that may or may not have involved sexual assault (much is left undisclosed throughout the film), she attempts a variety of dysfunctional techniques to resolve the trauma. Initially withdrawing from even her roommate and best friend Alanna (Alanna Reynolds), she spends much of her entirely idle time lost in melancholic reverie, ensconced in her bedroom or aimlessly wandering the streets of her San Francisco Bay area neighborhood. 

As an artist, she naturally tries to channel her efforts into one of her projects, creating homemade body suits from sheer beige material. Adding a fake phallus to her outfit, she play-acts some violent revenge fantasies alone in the depths of a redwood grove, but apparently these antics provide an insufficient resolution to her increasingly complex psychological conflicts. Unexpectedly veering in the opposite direction, she begins hanging out with Kenny (Kentucker Audley), a random guy she meets one night playing pool in a neighborhood bar. Their blossoming relationship seems to provide some stability as her behavior temporarily normalizes, but then Kenny’s own secrets threaten to push them both into risky, unknown territory.

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Banker, who also produces, shoots and edits the film, refers to his collaboration with co-writer and San Francisco-based artist Everson as “docu-horror,” but the film’s verite approach never remotely achieves genre status. With predominantly improvised dialogue and performances, Felt gains scant narrative complexity from an over-reliance on a no-frills documentary style.

Although Everson’s representation of Amy’s psychological affliction demonstrates an unconvincing Freudian literalism, her increasingly bizarre artistic interpretations do manage to build some mildly escalating tension. Whether those developments possess enough significance to bestow the film with a compelling plot may depend on one’s interpretation of dramatic structure. The film’s dependence on practical locations and handheld cinematography, however, appear to be as much a budgetary consideration as a stylistic choice, but could be said to suit the material’s determined realism.  

Cast: Amy Everson, Kentucker Audley, Roxanne Knouse, Alanna Reynolds, Brendan Miller

Director: Jason Banker

Screenwriters: Jason Banker, Amy Everson

Producers: Jason Banker, Jesse McGowan

Directors of photography: Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres

Editors: Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres

 

Not Rated, 80 minutes 

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