Felt opens with sound: saliva clacking against mucus membranes, a closing throat. Amy (Amy Everson) is crying. The camera, invading her personal space, invites the viewer to do the same. Women, if visible, are expected to be beautiful even while weeping, which suggests — in this case, wrongly — that they need rescuing as well. This strange, quiet film takes social narratives about romance and gender and upends them, often seeming like one thing until it’s another.
At first, tinkly music and disorienting camera angles make Felt seem girlish and small — but the effect’s protective, and fuck you for associating girlishness with insignificance. Amy, depressed, spends all day in her childhood bedroom, incapable of moving enough to forget “that you’re constantly objectified and discredited just for being female.” Concerned friends want her to go out and look pretty, but on an arranged double date Amy gets aggressive, arguing with moneyed men who claim they’re useful to society. The dispute echoes in Amy’s solo art project, which drives her to the woods wearing costumes that are part murderous ski mask, part dildo. She appropriates artifacts of toxic masculinity, takes their power and disconnects it from normalcy, respectability — and male bodies.
Swathed in San Francisco fog and a hoodie, Amy looks like any whispering mumblecore starlet, but her actions are loud — especially once she starts dating Kenny (Kentucker Audley), who sports an ingrained sense of romance and a foppish haircut. He holds Amy while she laments that “most forms of rape are perpetuated by people that you know and trust,” but Kenny can’t possibly suspect Amy’s potential for violence.
Directed by Jason Banker
Distributed by Amplify Releasing
Opens June 26, IFC Center