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By Jason Delgado | March 29, 2023

The sad irony of childhood trauma is that it often leads the victim to traumatize themselves or others when they reach adulthood. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be dealt with head-on and broken, or else it can lead to a downward spiral. It’s a similar dynamic with toxic relationships, they’re fun and exciting at first, but they’ll take you down a dark hole if you allow them to.

Writer/director Rich Mallery’s Felines is an erotic drama/thriller about two lesbians named Max (Madison Santos) and Lily (Kate Lý Johnston), who each have some significant issues. Still, they’re drawn to each other like moths to a flame. Max is a bartender, which is how she meets Lily, who pickpocketed one of her customers while flirting with him. Of course, Max observes all of this, but the excitement only adds fuel to the fire.

Max knows that Lily is trouble but just can’t get her out of her head, especially while in the shower. The two women start hanging out, leading to drinking, drugs, and hooking up. They both have issues from their childhood that they neither want to talk about. It’s easier to drown their sorrows in the techno dance soundtrack.

“…two lesbians…who each have significant issues…drawn to each other like moths to a flame.”

Lily has a webcam show that she tries to coax Max to be on, but she tries to maintain some of her dignity despite the dalliances with sex, drugs, and alcohol. Eventually, Lily convinces Max to join in on a date with a “client” named Walter (Chris Spinelli), where they put on a show and make a ton of cash. Max enjoys it and falls further down the rabbit hole of sorrow, especially as her relationship with Lily starts to falter from all of the drama.

Felines is a bit reminiscent of Requiem for a Dream, though a low-budget and lighter version. They both deal with characters who let addictions take them down a path that can be difficult to watch. However, it’s tough for any movie to compare to the depravity seen in Darren Aronofsky’s dark masterpiece. Characters in both films do very destructive things, such as selling their bodies for more money and drugs. In this case, it leads to murder.

Johnston is believable as an out-of-control troublemaker and has good chemistry with her co-star. Santos also does a fine job portraying a broken woman who lets Lily corrupt her. The film plays on the voyeuristic nature of watching two attractive lesbians with each other, and the actors play into that aspect well.

Watching someone else’s drama on screen is much easier than dealing with it in real life. Some viewers will enjoy the madness, while others will not, so it can be easy to anticipate reactions to this movie varying wildly. Although having two beautiful leads will no doubt be a selling point for some people. I liked Felines because realistic human behavior in all its forms interests me.

Felines (2023)

Directed and Written: Rich Mallery

Starring: Madison Santos, Kate Lý Johnston, Chris Spinelli, Justin Kroehler, Ken May, Saint Heart, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

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"…Johnston is believable as an out-of-control troublemaker..."

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