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M.F.A. (2017)

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Starring Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins, Jr., Leah McKendrick

Directed by Natalia Leite


The subject of sexual assault is becoming a full-blown hot-button issue more than ever these days, and every time I’m faced with the opportunity to review a film that attempts to breach the subject, I’m not going to lie: there’s a feeling of genuine uneasiness that comes with the viewing. I’ve never been a victim, and I can only put my heart out there to those who have been as it’s a horrific experience, and one that can affect a person’s mental framework, for certain. Director Natalie Leite’s M.F.A. takes the topic of rape and instead of using it as a vehicle to extract endless amounts of violent retribution upon the offending souls, it turns the mirror around and lets the victim see how their lives are changed as a result of the crime – and for those who want a little revenge, it’s got that too.

Starring Francesca Eastwood as college visual arts student Noelle, she’s a talented sort whose instructors give her those “tough-love” kinds of pushes, knowing that she’s got the aptitude to be successful, and to cease her protected work tendencies. One night she’s invited back to the apartment of a guy she’s got the eye for in her art class, and after some innocent affection, the visit becomes the kind of stuff that would make anyone squirm in their chair. Noelle has been victimized, and the problem is as time passes, it almost seems as if she’s having trouble getting any kind of assistance with this heinous dealing. What makes this presentation work is that yes, a man committed the crime against her, but when she turns to help both personally and professionally, it’s the female side of the gender equation that looks to have doubts and concerns about her allegations, effectively flipping the problem on its ear.

The film then takes on a vigilante-styled format, as Noelle begins to exact revenge upon those who have wronged others, and while there aren’t any particularly gory undertakings, it doesn’t lessen the effects of the punishment that she dishes out. Clifton Collins, Jr. gives a solid performance as a stoic detective, and while he appears a bit disjointed in his role, he ultimately makes the portrayal pay off as the clock ticks down in the movie. Eastwood however, steals the show here, and it’s not by screaming or crying as a result of her trauma (which does happen at times), but instead she employs a fairly calm and reserved demeanor when addressing the past anguish she’s endured – slight deviations in facial expression can go a long way when conveying emotion, and she pulls it off to a chilling extent. M.F.A. is so much more than a “rape-revenge” type of film, and the tone and tempo are explicitly slowed down to enhance said topic – it’s bleak, it’s depressing, and it’s all too common a happening. Leite should be praised for the construction of this film, and while these movies aren’t exactly in my comfort-zone, I’ll give credit where it’s due, and this is one powerful film to lean into.

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User Rating 3.07 (15 votes)

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