Felt might be more vitally of the moment than any other film that people aren’t likely to see (though it\ was picked up by Amplify out of AFI, so fingers crossed). Right now, a very necessary conversation about rape culture and the myriad ways that society is hostile to women is taking shape. Felt isn’t a piece for conversation, though. It’s an experience. It’s an unvarnished, unpretentious, and seemingly unassuming portrait of what it’s like to be a woman and feel the world crushing your throat under its heel.
Amy Everson is a San Francisco experimental artist who’s experienced sexual trauma in her recent past. In Felt, she plays… Amy, a San Francisco experimental artist who’s experienced sexual trauma in her recent past. Everson co-wrote the script for the film with director Jason Banker, contributing her characteristics, her art, and real incidents from her life to the project. The result is a queasily fuzzed line between fact and fiction. Amy (the character) is in a place of tenuous emotional stability, and the movie makes her heightened, prey-animal viewpoint vividly real. The everyday monstrosity of men who harass her in bars or on the streets is mundane yet terrifying.
Felt is about finding a way to reclaim one’s sense of power and self-security. Amy’s art incorporates felt and yarn recreations of male iconography, including many, many phalluses. She builds a suit with bulging muscles and poses in it in the sunset. She has a penis voodoo doll, and sticks a pin up its urethra. It could be too quirky or come off as shallow hipster eccentricity, but Everson sells every aspect. She is weird and offbeat, not in a cute Hollywood way, but off-balance, gritty, and unsettling. She seems like the kind of person you’d inch away from if they sat next to you on the bus, despite the fact that she’s clearly in desperate need of some kind of comfort.
That empathy is the cornerstone of the film, which builds its plot, such as it is, around Amy meeting what seems to be a nice guy. Kenny (Kentucker Audley) is sweet, considerate, gentle, and almost perfect. Too perfect, even. Perfect enough that, while Amy grows to trust him, a ball of unease burrows itself deep into the audience’s collective stomach. Having established how fragile Amy’s sanity is, the movie builds spectacular dread out of waiting for the shoe to drop. #NotAllMen? #YesAllMen.
Felt is a pair of scissors thrust into the gut. If films came with trigger warnings, this one would be plastered with them. It’s not that it contains graphic depictions or even descriptions of reactionary content (with one very notable exception). Rather, it makes gender-based microaggressions uncomfortably front and center. It uses empathy as a weapon against the audience, forcing them to confront this aspect of our culture in all its ugliness. It’s unshakable, as it should be.