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M.F.A. (2017)

Dark Sky Films
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/28/2017

All Ratings out of

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/25/2017

Some things can't be forced, no matter how much you want it. So many movies strive to be of the moment, and want to insert themselves into the zeitgeist. But, no matter how much synergy you have, things like this can't be created. You don't have to be a cutting-edge person to understand that while a movie is being shot, the world continues to turn and no matter how fast you move, by the time your film is released, the subject may be passe. Having said that, every once in a while, a movie comes along which inexplicably seems to be of the moment, and M.F.A. is a shining example. But, does being right on time guarantee quality.

Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is an art student at Balboa University. Noelle's teacher admires her technique, but tells her that there is no passion in her work. She is somewhat shy and introverted, mainly socializing with her neighbor, Skye (Leah McKendrick). However, she does notice a guy in her class, Luke (Peter Vack), and she's overwhelmed when he invites her to a party. Once at the party, Noelle follows Luke to his room, where he rapes her. Noelle stumbles home, unsure how to react. She attempts to maintain some normalcy, but she can't shake the images. Noelle approaches a university staff member, but doesn't receive much help. When Luke invites her over again, she goes and confronts him, and she finds the event to be very cathartic. This inspires her to look into other rapes which have occurred on campus, and she begins to fancy herself a vigilante.

In the event that you've missed the news over the past few months, many women have stepped forward and shared their stories concerning rape, sexual harassment, and sexual misconduct. (And these revelations have brought down some very powerful men.) This has created a new conversation in America concerning how women are treated in our society and how those who make accusations of rape and harassment are treated. The "#MeToo" movement is something which is a long-time coming and all of the women involved she be applauded.

Going into M.F.A., I knew very little about the movie, so I was surprised when the film (which I believe was shot in 2016), began parroting things from the headlines. The film explores several different facets of the circumstances which involve rape. It looks at how women and men are treated differently in these situations. The perpetrators lead their lives as normal and find success, while the victims are left to deal with the physical and mental wounds. We see how the women block out the truth or go through physical transformations. The movie makes a point of showing that the police appear to be far more interested in Noelle’s vigilante actions than they were in the rapes. It doesn’t shy away from examining how those in authority treat victims, as we see that the women are forced to answer questions which aren’t really related to the event and are then given psychiatric diagnoses instead of help.

But, for all of its timeliness and insight, there is something missing from M.F.A.. The pacing is OK and the film moves along, but there is rarely any tension or suspense. Overall, there is a very mechanical feel to everything, as Noelle goes through the motions of hunting down the rapists. The story is also lacking in character development, and while we certainly feel for Noelle, this feeling doesn't go any further than a surface sympathy. Also, some may find it counter-intuitive that, following the rape, Noelle seems to embrace her sexuality, going from wearing hoodies to revealing clothing. There has long-since been a debate that the way a woman dresses should not dictate how she is treated, but Noelle is clearly using her scantily-clad body as a weapon. Is that feminist?

In 1981, stalwart New York director Abel Ferrara made a film entitled Ms. 45, in which a young woman is raped (twice in one day!) and then turns the tables on her attackers by taking to the streets to hunt scumbags. So, the ideas expressed in M.F.A. aren't necessarily original. However, there's no doubt that the film addresses a lot of issues which are very important for today. But, the movie reached a point where I wished that it was simply a documentary about how rape victims are treated, as opposed to a mis-managed revenge fantasy. The movie will certainly spark some important conversations, but don't expect it to be a compelling thriller.

M.F.A. matriculates on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Dark Sky Films. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, as the movie pushes primary colors at times, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the depth works well here. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects alert us to some sounds coming from off-screen, while the rear speakers see some involvement during the party scene. Otherwise, the bulk of the audio comes from the center channel. It's all well-balanced, but simply not spectacular.

The extra features on the M.F.A. Blu-ray Disc are comprised of a series of interviews. We get talks with the "Full Team" (1 minute), Director Natalia Leite (1 minute), Francesca Eastwood (1 minute), and Actor/Writer Leah McKendrick (1 minute). Obviously, these are quite brief, given the women only a short time to share their views on the movie. The only other extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long