There is much more than the growing threat of a blizzard brewing throughout the course of Feral that Yazmine (Annapurna Sriram) must fight to endure. Andrew Wonder’s adventure-drama, which screened at North Bend Film Festival for its West Coast Premiere, providing a physical storm that laps over New York City to put its protagonist at risk. It also provides images of metaphorical ones relating to the broader experience surrounding what it means to be homeless and alone.
Feral proceeds as a tale of caution. It taps into how for some, a storm varies in meaning. You may take things by storm, see the past as one, or it can be a physical warning to shelter from harsh environments when you are in a vulnerable position. Yazmine acts as the perfect example for all of these circumstances, she lives day-to-day navigating the city through a forgotten subway system she calls home, which holds links to the past lives spent down there. Occasionally, she is also left with no resolve but to surface to the city in an attempt to feed and clothe herself, and find money, so that she can fulfill her wish of being reunited with her mother who was taken away from her. In return, by touching upon the instances that Yazmine faces and endures, Feral represents the repercussions that can stem from the supposed helping hands of services that should benefit people, not make them turn against them.
Even though Yazmine lives underground, she showcases the perspective of looking up at the world and observing it, the world as we know it, while nobody is looking down below to see if anybody is in need. Here, Wonder emphasizes the aspect of being forgotten, whether by broader society or those we once knew, deepening the isolation this can create. But, one thing is apparent: and it is that as a viewer, Feral makes it impossible to look down on Yazmine and those in the same position to her. The film works to humanize the experiences they are faced with. As Yazmine is seen getting ready and repeatedly kissing her reflection in the mirror, Wonder, through this act, highlights how Yazmine has become her own best friend. With nobody else there for her, Yazmine often recites motivational passages to herself, the words she could wish to hear from others, even though she comes across as self-assured.
It is these moments that Wonder gives us which allow Feral to pan out a reality, which further provides the film with its core strength. Additionally, the genuine interactions and conversations shared between the film’s characters feel alive and not artificial. Feral’s power to produce a state of reality is further imbued with how Yazmine’s day-to-day life is entangled with interviews of people who have experienced homelessness and raise awareness to these circumstances, and it is not done in a dehumanizing exploitive way. What Feral produces as a result of this approach is a multi-dimensional image. The interviews that are part of the narrative link with Yazmine’s contrast between the stress and hardship that she encounters and the uplifting moments that she can have. Even more so, what is striking about this approach is how it highlights the threats of the world and how they can leave us battered and bruised, in a position of defenselessness.
More importantly, Feral asks us to reflect on how individuals progress through life, and what reality they have actually faced contrasting whether or not they live in what we call the real world or a bubble of privilege. From a disadvantaged position, the world is significantly tougher, which Wonder expands upon through Yazmine by showing how a battle can last all day, and can be something as simply trying to stay warm or just waiting for the opportunity to jump on a train to get back home when you have no money. Regardless of the hardship it depicts, Feral does portray how goodness can exist, and in return, the cold can be pushed back, even when it is hard to believe it will not go away.
There is nothing untamed about Sriram’s performance of Yazmine even though she is in a wild state, but this very state and Sriram are the reasons why the film works so well, as after all, it is her story and she does own it. What Feral lets us see is a smart, cunning, and tactful woman who is full of charisma and charm. By not being presented in a fixed position, Yazmine is able to manipulate her appearance and put on a performance to get what she desires, which reflects how there can be a lack of opportunities for young people. She talks to others as a way to get what she needs, whether it be a cigarette or a pizza. But overall, what Feral keeps punching at is that life is a continuous fight and sometimes you will have to take what you can get – even if it is by unethical means because the world does not treat everybody ethically.
Feral will leave you with an echo from each character, set on representing loneliness, the quality of feeling like an outsider, and a need for justice. It highlights a help yourself approach which is not surprising in a film where its main character proclaims she is her own boss and encourages others to be the same. A new meaning is given to the phrase winter is coming with Feral, and this one is set on providing an insight into resilient human nature, the importance of trying to find and keep a home, and hoping for better days.
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