My Name is A by Anonymous is a rough film to sit through, but I’d be concerned about my own psyche if I thought there was a way to experience the subject matter and not be disturbed. A combination of outside narrative and found footage first person, Shane Ryan (credited as Bonéshin) manages to create a cinematic experience that is as arty as it is unsettling.
Split into three chapters, the film focuses on a small group of characters, all of which have aspects of their lives revealed per chapter. First, there’s Alyssa (Katie Marsh) and her sidekick (Demi Baumann), two teenage girls who spend a lot of time cursing each other out, pushing each other around, torturing Alyssa’s younger brother (Joseph Marsh) and, from time to time, self-mutilating. Then there’s the performer (Teona Dolnikova), a girl who wishes to be a pop star, also enjoys cutting herself and may or may not be getting sexually abused at home by her father (Sean Cain). Finally, there’s the girl referred to in the credits as angst (Alex Damiano), a bulimic that collects her own puke in a jar, also cuts herself from time to time, definitely is getting sexually abused at home by her father (Domiziano Arcangeli) and likes to talk into a small handheld camera. In fact, all of the characters spend time with the camera, almost like they’re all vlogging their lives, and the film wraps up with all of the characters coming together for the brutal act of murdering a young girl (Kaliya Skye).
Now, if you want to take it as a straightforward narrative tale and not think on it anymore than that, then the above paragraph will likely be where you’ll leave it, but there’s so much more going on here. Only a few characters have names, and all the girls share similar traits, though in increasing or decreasing intensity. Was a young girl really murdered, or was it the innocence of childhood that became the victim of a single person’s damaged personality? Both?
If you do some research after you watch it, you will find all these questions answered when you learn what the story’s source material is (and that can be a bummer, because I much preferred my own interpretation to the truth; you’ve been warned). I liked having all the different stories play out simultaneously and then, at the very end, suddenly finding myself forced to question all that I had just experienced, for good or bad. The value in the film, for me, is that journey.
It’s not a perfect journey, however. Some sequences seem to linger far too long (the performer’s full-length music video performance, for example, though I liked that it added something new to the darkness of the film) and the overall film probably could’ve gotten to where it is going in less time. Visually, because it is a combination of different cameras and perceptions, the few times when it feels too raw or suddenly changes aspect ratio to match the cameras being used makes sense. The subject matter isn’t clean and shiny, so I don’t expect the visual experience to be so either. That little bit of rough reality adds an extra layer of uncomfortable.
Again, this is not a comfortable film, and it’s not a pleasant one. I respect what Bonéshin has done in the execution of the experience during the film and truly give credit to the artistry of the film in light of the after-the-fact knowledge of the film’s source material. I probably won’t look at this film again, but I appreciate the art that went into it.
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