One of the most thought-provoking and unsettling films of the year is also one of the most feminist; a searing and no-holds-barred look at sexism and sexual violence, Felt , an indie thriller out Jun. 26, tackles everything from roofies to rape. Yet according to its star and co-writer, Amy Everson, the film's overt themes and connection to society weren't meant to be so, well, overt.
"It’s kind of accidental," says Everson, speaking with Bustle. "I didn’t really set out to make a feminist film. But at the same time, I am a feminist, and so inevitably, my opinions inform the story."
That's to say the least; Felt is based substantially off its star's real life, incorporating many of the traumas, relationships, and male aggression that Everson, a visual artist, has dealt with over the years. Yet while the actress says that while her original intent was to make a movie revolving around her personal experiences, she's pleased that its final version is less specific.
"The fact that it’s resonating with other people and that it’s being touted as feminist is a statement to how big the problem of sexual objectification and aggression is," she says. "I think that’s important that people see that this isn’t one person’s story — this is addressing a greater climate and culture."
Directed by Jason Banker (Toad Road), Felt follows Amy (Everson), a woman recovering from a never-specified sexual assault. To cope, she wears self-made costumes, including genitalia-focused bodysuits, and takes on different personas, material drawn from Everson's real art and space.
Says the star, "Everything from my room to my naked genital suits were a reflection of how I was dealing with the traumas around my life, and that’s what translated on-screen."
Yet while that trauma itself certainly informs the film, much of Felt deals with the more subtle microaggressions experienced by Amy each day, and by Everson and many other women in their real lives. One scene in particular stands out; a date, seemingly believing he's simply being honest, tells Amy his theory that roofies are just women's excuses to get drunk and sleep with strangers, and very little truly counts as rape and assault. It's an infuriating conversation, both for its subject matter ("misogyny is a very rampant thing," Everson says bluntly) and for its speaker's total ignorance.
Says the actress, "There’s a reason why there is this anger and aggression within me."
Everson says that one of the film's biggest challenges was getting its male actors to understand the impact of unintentionally harmful behavior. She says that many of the men on set, while well-meaning, weren't aware that "they were a part of the story that I was trying to tell." Even the director had trouble at times; Everson says that Banker "didn’t really understand why my experiences were so damaging and affected me so deeply."
Still, she says, "It was ultimately that kind of conflict that informed the story, because a lot of my expression on the film is kind of me trying to tell Banker: this is my life. This is my story."
It's a story that's resonated strongly with viewers (" Felt sneaks up on you and lingers for hours afterward," said The AV Club in its review), and Everson says the response she's heard from fans has been nothing but positive.
"People, both men and women, approach me after screenings saying, 'thank you for making this film,' and opening up about their personal experiences," she says. "It's been really moving, because I can understand the frustration people feel going through lives either being a trauma survivor, or just being a woman."
One of Everson's biggest goals with the film, as well as her sexualized art, is to encourage a change in behavior and limit that frustration, not through subtle comments or hushed asides but through open, honest communication. She points out to the roofies scene as an especially notable moment, saying that discriminatory instances like that unfortunately aren't "very rare."
"He [the character] represents a kind of mentality that is very common and offensive," Everson says. "It speaks to this attitude that a lot of men do have."
Yet with Felt, she hopes that those who might not recognize the damage of their actions or the need to change will begin to do so.
Says Everson firmly, "It's important to have that conversation."
Watch the trailer for Felt below, and check out the film when it opens on Jun. 26:
Images: Amplify Releasing (3)