M.F.A. (SXSW 2017) - Dread Central
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M.F.A. (SXSW 2017)

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dcnone.jpgStarring Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins, Jr., Leah McKendrick

Directed by Natalia Leite

Screened at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival


Rape revenge thrillers aren’t usually my cup of tea. They’re simply not the kind of horror sub-genre films that I actively seek out. However, when one is well written and dares to stare into the abyss with an unwavering gaze, I feel that it is my responsibility to check it out. And while I’m not 100% aboard with the methods of M.F.A., I feel that it is an important and necessary film.

We follow Noelle (Eastwood), an art student working towards her Masters of Fine Arts degree. One day a fellow student that she clearly has interest in invites her to a party, where he sexually assaults and rapes her. After reporting the incident and essentially being ignored and pushed away, she decides to confront her rapist directly. During this meeting there is a small scuffle, and he is pushed over the banister of the second floor, slams to the ground, and dies.

After fleeing the scene, Noelle then begins embarking upon a vigilante streak of killing rapists who were let off of their charges. As the film progresses, her methods become more vicious and the consequences of her actions become all the more poignant, culminating in a finale that is understated, yet demands introspection.

To be completely honest with you readers, I didn’t know what to make of this movie at first. It seemed to take the stance that guilt must be presumed and judgment must be swift and without remorse. But with more thought, it becomes clear that this isn’t the message that should necessarily be taken away. Rather, this is a film about a single person having reached her breaking point and taking matters into her own hands. Think of a movie like Joel Schumacher’s 1993 thriller Falling Down, where Michael Douglas simply snaps and goes on a rampage. That’s what M.F.A. now feels like to me. We’re not supposed to think that what Noelle is doing is right. What we’re supposed to feel is a sense of understanding as to “why,” yet a disagreement with the methods.

The acting from every character is fantastic, although Eastwood’s performance is something out of this world. Her transformation through the film is a sight to behold, and she maintains a delicate balance of being both a victim and a predator with stunning confidence. Leah McKendrick, who also wrote the film, is fantastic as wounded neighbor Daisy Skye, who herself was a victim of a sexual assault and is trying to maintain a mask of happiness to cover the wounds that haven’t come close to healing. Shot with respect by Natalia Leite, M.F.A. is, production-wise, an incredibly solid film.

While I have no issue with the rating I am giving the film below, I do warn readers that this is a powerful and challenging release, one that demands discussion and expects viewers to begin their own investigations and research into the subject matter. This is because the ending doesn’t find some sort of middle ground of “rape is awful, but murder is awful too.” If you’re okay with what happens in the movie and find some sort of vindication or catharsis, so be it. But for those who find that there isn’t a hero, so to speak, you’ll need to personally invest yourself into this world to find out how to help make a change.

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User Rating 3.13 (15 votes)

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