23rd Oct2017

Celluloid Screams 2017: ‘M.F.A.’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Leah McKendrick, Peter Vack, Michael Welch, Andrew Caldwell, David Sullivan, Mike C. Manning, Adam Lazarre-White | Written by Leah McKendrick | Directed by Natalia Leite


Every now and then a movie comes along that challenges the socially accepted. Films that take actual real life situations that are being completely ignored or brushed under a rug and shines a light on it. These films must always be done with the utmost respect or not only do you lose the audience but you also miss the point completely – which in this case, could easily be a concern going into this, especially considering its billed as a revenge flick.

M.F.A is a movie that shines that light on the ever growing campus sexual assault problem and not only lifts the rug but gives us a powerful stirring unflinching look at very very current issue at hand. Who better to tell us this tale than director Natalia Leite (Bare), debut screenwriter and actress Leah McKendrick (Bad Moms); with a full on powerhouse of a performance from our lead Francesca Eastwood (Final Girl).

Sooo to the pitch…

Noelle (Eastwood) is a struggling art student, her work is good technically but she is finding it hard to find her inner voice and let it out on the canvas (which I guess is super important for art school). Noelle doesn’t have a great deal of friends and is somewhat shy, so when a talented member of her class invites her to his house party… Well how could she refuse. This is where the movie takes a turn and becomes that one episode of 13 Reasons Why. However what needs to be said is that there is nothing easy about watching this scene, you are there and you are watching whether you like it or not. This adds everything to the horrific feelings our protagonist is going through. Noelle confides in her room-mate who advises her to forget it and move on, of course she can’t, so visits the campus councillor who disgustingly (and all too realistically) lets her down. Feeling like she is completely alone she decides to confront her attacker, one thing leads to another, things get very heated and she accidentally pushes him over a balcony and a vigilante is born, Revenge and retribution will be her muse and now she is painting her masterpiece (I think I stole that from Christopher Walken in Man on Fire).

Yeah that’s enough for the pitch. What follows is a solid, superbly written, wonderfully performed from top to bottom, rape/revenge piece. Front and center is Francesca Eastwood who is mesmerizing. I 100% per cent bought her arc: from shy mousy struggling artist to a hardcore femme fatale flourishing Picasso. A lot of the time a switch of character like this can be way to over the top and feel completely unbelievable, but I felt Eastwood hit the sweet spot.

The supporting cast all put in great performances to compliment the lead because this is very much Eastwood’s movie. Oh also it is always nice to see Clifton Collins Jr on screen, even if he is a pretty crappy detective. Actually his character trait that was something I liked and I am guessing it was intentional; in fact all the men in this movie are played as, for lack of a better term, “dumb-asses” – none of them could seem to get there shit together for two minutes. I feel this was intentional.

M.F.A. does everything it sets out to do with precision and accuracy. Everything is on point, the script, the performances and the choices made by an absolutely fearless director.

M.F.A. screened as part of this years Celluloid Screams Festival. You can also check our M.F.A. review from Fantasia right here.


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