Editor’s Note: The following review is part of our coverage of the 2015 Boston Underground Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit bostonunderground.org and follow BUFF on Twitter @.
Stigma is a fickle beast. It causes us to shut down, to level assumptions instead of searching for knowledge. When you say BDSM it conjures images of ropes, whips, handcuffs, and pain. No matter what your friend’s mom has to say about how much she enjoyed 50 Shades of Grey, my bet is that it’s not from some deep understanding of BDSM. In fact, it seems like a disservice to members of the BDSM community to reduce them to some element of mutated fan fiction. It fosters a continued ignorance, profiting off of a taboo rather than being a true exploration of what it means. Remedy looks BDSM directly in the face and digs into what this lifestyle is actually like, revealing a fascinating world of inherent eccentricities.
Kira Davies astounds. The fact that this is a film populated by actors occasionally drifts away, largely because of Davies’ portrayal.
First time writer-director Cheyenne Picardo brings a different kind of experience to Remedy. Rather than developing the film on the established societal viewpoint, the former pro-domme puts a world of tacit knowledge on the screen. It isn’t to say that the film is akin to documentary, but Picardo feels no obligation to go into the minute details of what makes up BDSM. Instead she places BDSM as an environment, something that simply surrounds her characters. She focuses on building a world of rich characters and crafts a film that is truly about the human experience, simply in a different setting.
For those expecting grandiose sex scenes or a feature length descent into titillation, you will be sorely disappointed. Picardo strips away any sheen of glamorized sexuality and unflinchingly portrays the experience of working in this industry. Yes there is nudity and many of the sessions have at least an undercurrent of sex, but the film is about so many other things before that. This is a story of self-discovery, of how Remedy finds herself, of what she is capable, and what she actually wants. There is no judgment on the industry itself as good or bad. It is shown as it is, both pros and cons. Like any industry there are broken elements and it is presented to the audience to elicit emotion. You may not want the life of Remedy, but within her story are elements that may surprise you in their familiarity.
As the title suggests, this is Remedy’s story, and as such requires a strong performance in that role. Kira Davies astounds. The fact that this is a film populated by actors occasionally drifts away, largely because of Davies’ portrayal. Remedy’s introduction to BDSM is gradual, wading into an ocean of new experiences. The natural apprehension that accompanies the new is as apparent on Davies face as it is the audience’s. None of us are sure entirely where this is headed, but we cannot help but walk deeper, the water rising so gradually that once we have become submerged it is unwittingly. There is a quiet charm in Remedy’s very existence that ingratiates her to us. We care for Remedy. We yearn for her success. We fear for her safety. Without Davies, this would not come so easily.
There is a purpose to every single shot and the film employs a fascinatingly gradual crescendo.
Beautifully accentuating Davies’ performance is Picardo’s direction. The camera moves ever so softly through scenes, unobtrusively bringing the audience within this world. Through an exquisite mixture of close and medium shots, the emotionality is heightened to the point where occasionally you hope to escape. But like Remedy, we are not allowed an easy path away. Picardo bravely insists that we linger until her point has been made, until we fully feel the misgivings of Remedy as readily as the hot breath on her neck. The most difficult scene is an extended domination by Tim Bohn’s businessman. Even in the way he is shot, we are distrustful, and the following minutes are like an eternity of pain, as much emotional as physical. It is uncomfortable and occasionally terrifying. With so few words and little movement, much of the time the camera trained on Remedy’s searching and pained expression alone, the scene delivers such tension. You crave release and are relieved when Picardo finally grants it.
Remedy is certainly not without its faults. Its ending is disappointing and nearly undercuts the strength that we believe Remedy has achieved. However, it is an impressive first feature. Cheyenne Picardo is fearless in her storytelling and has a command of the cinematic medium that many more experienced filmmakers could only hope for. There is a purpose to every single shot and the film employs a fascinatingly gradual crescendo. Her ability to subvert expectations and effectively produce an artistic character exploration that is both respectful and expository of a patently misunderstood culture is equal parts fascinating and exhausting. Remedy is unflinching in its portrayal of discomfort and emotional discovery. It is steadfastly confident in its storytelling and both introduces a fantastic talent in Kira Davies and establishes Cheyenne Picardo as a filmmaker to watch.
Remedy is unflinching in its portrayal of discomfort and emotional discovery. It is steadfastly confident in its storytelling and both introduces a fantastic talent in Kira Davies and establishes Cheyenne Picardo as a filmmaker to watch.