FERAL IS A HEARTBREAKING DRAMA THAT DEMANDS YOUR ATTENTION
For many of us, it’s easy to forget those who are less fortunate. Our own lives are so enwrapped in a mile a minute lifestyle, that we don’t often acknowledge the suffering in the world. Most of you reading this, like myself, have probably given to a homeless person before, but more often than not, pass them by. Director Andrew Wonder’s film, Feral, aims to remind us that these are not vagrants, but souls who deserve our attention, and our help.
Set to have its world premiere this Sunday, April 7th, at the Serasota Film Festival, Feral, based on a script by Wonder, Priscilla Kavanaugh and Jason Mendez, is a deeply personal film which follows a young homeless woman named Yazmine (Annapurna Sriram). Shot in the transit tunnels underneath Manhattan, Feral follows Yazmine as she struggles to survive life on the streets in the days leading up to a blizzard.
Words cannot describe how impressive Sriram is in Feral. Sriram delivers the kind of performance that audiences will be talking about as they leave the theatre. Yazmine’s story is an emotional, lonely journey that is both heartwarming and utterly tragic, and Sriram captures the emotion of the character perfectly. I found myself mesmerized by Yazmine as we follow her through the primal streets of New York, or into the dark underbelly of the city, which acts as her home. Sriram is a powerful actress who dares you to look away as she pumps herself up in the scummy mirror of her underground nest, saying things like “I do what I want because I’m the boss of my whole body”. You’re damn right, Yazmine!
But it isn’t just about Sriram’s award-worthy performance. Feral’s script is fantastic, and presents Yazmine as a complicated character who we love to root for. See, there are two sides that we see a lot of in Yazmine. The primal side which must seduce, fight, and steal in order to survive, and the tired, beautiful soul who just wants someone to love her. Feral is a deep look into the life of a homeless woman, filled with moments both difficult and inspiring. Wonder’s film shows us everything, from a (thankfully off-screen) brutal attack on Yazmine by a trio of men who leave her bruised and battered, to Yazmine shamefully asking a woman for a tampon, to a warm scene in which Yazmine dances with a kind old woman who has taken her in for the night.
Yazmine is a character who believes deeply in Karma, despite the fact that life doesn’t always see things so black and white as that. Bad people get away with being bad. Good people struggle to help Yazmine. And yet, Yazmine lives by this code, at one point even offering a stranger a cigarette despite needing it herself, because she likely believes if she refuses, karma will come back at her. Make no mistake, Feral is a painful film to watch, but Sriram is such an enjoyable presence on screen, that she’s like a candlelight in an endless tunnel of darkness. I simply could not get enough of her story, and at an all-too short runtime of seventy-five minutes, found myself wishing we got to spend more time in this touching tale.
Feral is a poetic film with something to say. Every scene, every shot matters, no matter how inconsequential it might seem. One moment in particular stands out, when Yazmine is taken in for the night, and finds herself caressing a TV remote, something she clearly hasn’t held in a long time. For most of us, it’s just a simple piece of plastic, but for Yazmine, it’s a symbol of a life she no longer has, a connection to the world she no longer shares. The constant which she does share, however, is music. They say that music is the language of the soul, and in Feral, music is everything. Nearly every encounter between Yazmine and another human revolves around some kind of music, such as the dance she shares with an old woman, in which she practically weeps in her arms. Music helps us to see that no matter how different we all are, we all share a bond, and Wonder captures that idea beautifully. I dare you to get through this film without a single tear being brought to your eyes.
Speaking of beauty, the cinematography by Wonder himself is stunning, revealing a world unknown to the general public. Wonder’s film depicts a grim, grimy reality on and underneath the streets of New York. Whenever Yazmine is in someone’s home, the scene feels inviting, but in the city, we’re shown a bleak reality full of wide shots that make Yazmine appear as the loneliest person on the planet, even when she’s surrounded by people. The city is a character itself in Feral, one that is unforgiving and cruel, but in some respects, is the only true friend Yazmine has, which is the saddest thing of all.
Feral is an extraordinary film that hits home hard. Without saying too much, there is a reveal towards the end which explains how Yazmine has ended up on the streets, and it’s a moment that is truly heart-wrenching and all too relevant to what is going on in America today. Wonder’s film is a revealing look into our society, one that is of vast importance, with a strong message on who we are as human beings, and what we need to be doing better in this world that we share with each other. Though Feral is full of it’s dark moments, with a poignant ending that will sit with you long after the credits roll, Wonder’s film is an inspiration which depicts the resiliency of human beings in the worst situations, while showing us all how we can do better.
Do yourself a favor and don’t miss this one. Just make sure to have some tissues on hand.