M.F.A. (2017)

  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Director: Natalia Leite
  • Cast: Francesca Eastwood, Clifton Collins Jr., Michael Welch


An art student taps into a rich source of creative inspiration after the accidental slaughter of her rapist. An unlikely vigilante emerges, set out to avenge college girls whose attackers walked free- all the while fueling a vivid thesis exhibition.

One comment

  • Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) is a California art student whose work is criticised by her fellow students as being safe and superficial. Her professor (Marlon Young) leads the chorus, exhorting her to “Get messy! Fail! Fail miserably! Make something ugly!”

    Though talented, Noelle is perhaps too shy and lacking in life experience. So when she’s invited to a party by fellow student Luke (Peter Vack), she decides to go not only to spend time with her crush but also to get herself out of her shell. At the party, Luke lavishes her with attention and Noelle is enjoying herself until a kiss in his room swiftly turns into rape. The scene is rightly unnerving, both clinically observed and attentive to Noelle’s experience.

    More unsettling is what ensues as Noelle quickly realises that reporting the rape doesn’t bring about any sort of action. Her best friend Skye (Leah McKendrick, who wrote the screenplay) advises her not to tell the school administration, they’ll only end up saying it was her fault and she’ll be branded as either crazy or a slut that was asking for it. The on-campus women’s group isn’t any help either, almost accepting rape as part of the campus experience instead of doing anything of significance to excise the root of the issue.

    Propelled by the experiences of other victims whose rapes either went unreported or were reported but whose perpetrators were never prosecuted, Noelle seeks some form of justice and she discovers that she may have to be the judge, jury and executioner. Her vigilantism, in turn, unlocks something in her art, which is soon being praised by her professor. Noelle’s transition into avenger is somewhat awkward, but Eastwood’s performance is so raw and tough that the character remains wholly believable even if her reasoning and motivation are flimsily delineated.

    M.F.A. achieves catharsis by largely avoiding being exploitative or sensationalistic, but its rickety narrative and execution often undermines its commentary on unfortunately timely topics.

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