Writer and costar Leah McKendrick and director Natalia Leite tackle the issue of campus sexual assault with the uncommonly insightful and psychologically motivated rape-revenge slasher flick “M.F.A.”
After she suffers a horrifying date rape, visual arts graduate student Noelle (Francesca Eastwood, daughter of Clint) confronts her rapist, and the altercation results in his accidental death. Emboldened, and frustrated by what she views as a lack of action to bring campus rapists to justice, she seeks revenge on those who have escaped punishment for their life-ruining criminal acts.
Director Leite’s always sensual approach is unflinching and, at times, brutal (two of the rapes are graphically depicted, one in a viral video). Noelle’s violence is intimate, and she regains her power through these encounters, shedding fear and anxiety along the way.
Tonally, “M.F.A” is sometimes jarring, as these outrageous, fantastical killings are motivated by authentic, grounded emotions. But at the center, Eastwood is absolutely riveting, inhabiting a true violent vigilante worth rooting for. Noelle is a millennial Dirty Harry, tackling the social problems that face this generation in a story that’s outsized in nature but metaphorically pierces right at the heart of the matter.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills