I will fully admit that I kind of avoided Felt at Fantasitc Fest when it premiered for the same reason I had a hard time getting into the movie when I recently watched it for review. Its not that I thought it would be bad or even an aversion to discussion of rape and gender issues (if you know anything about Fantastic Fest you know that isn’t unusual ground for the movies) but rather it was the naturalist approach to the movie. This is a movie supremely grounded in reality to the point that it makes you uncomfortable frequently and makes the ominous tones throughout really worrying.
The movie follows Amy (Amy Everson playing a form of herself) an artist who experienced some unknown sexual trauma in the past and is now trying to reenter the world and regain her sense of self and strength thanks to the encouragement of friends. Amy’s art has recently taken on an obsession with gender forms, super heroes and costumes displaying the gender including frequently wearing costumes giving her male genitals (in the form of a large dildo) and masking out her identity. Its an oddity but feels like its something that helps her grow back into herself as she goes out with friends and on dates meeting guys that highlight the worst of their gender in various ways and only continue to affect her mentality on men and gender. That is, at least, until she meets Kenny (Kentucker Audley) it seems she finds a perfect guy for her but the films tone forebodes that everything won’t be sunny from here and it takes you pushing on to experience it all.
The cast all plays into the naturalist film style and really sells it as real life shot by an invisible documentarian and bring it to life. Everson reminds me a bit of Kat Dennings in her acting style being a bit mousey in general but able to be vocal and dynamic when called for and breathing life, humor and hurt to the screen. I can’t imagine acting out a personification of the art you make and a recreation of your life and recovery from a traumatic experience like she does but she does so with aplomb. Audley is also quite good as he has been in his previous work and reminds me how much of this similar natural tone he brought to another previous Fantastic Fest film, The Sacrament.He’s a bit awkward and sweet and plays well off the odd and sometimes uncomfortable tone Amy delivers. There’s just such a presence from Everson that is nicely buffeted by Audley that it drives the movie through that foreboding feeling.
Director and co-writer Jason Banker really deserves credit for his shooting and directing style giving the film its quirky dark energy. Banker is most well known for his 2012 film Toad Road and honestly he has a knack for thriller pacing that slowly burns and eats you up throughout the movie and challenges you to survive until the end. I am generally a fan of that in thrillers but I have to admit that applying that to a film that feels so grounded in reality was a difficult watch for me both in that sense of fear of what will happen and also because at times it can feel like its meandering. The film is well shot with some truly pretty scenes while others are just cleanly shot but overall I felt nothing was lacking there. The biggest issue I have is I felt the film didn’t deliver as much as it could on the ending as it does so much buildup and then reaches that big ending moment and its done in a few minutes when it could’ve been explored further with some of that time that felt meandering before.
Dark and challenging are honestly the best descriptors for this film overall as it can knot your stomach up from both the uncomfortable moments of reality and the strange and difficult visuals and topics presented. I can’t say its a film I personally loved as it wasn’t a style that I can get into very easily but there is nothing wrong with the film that an audience more into the naturalist style won’t like if looking for a thriller.