Film Review: ‘The Fever and the Fret’ Blends Fantasy, Reality, and the Desire to Belong

When we’re disillusioned with our circumstances, sometimes we slip into an altered state, another reality to escape our real one. In “The Fever and the Fret,” lead Eleanor finds solace in a world she creates, a world where she is free to be herself. Cath Gulick‘s debut feature is thought-provoking and unsettling at the same time. The film shows us the impact of bullying, and the emotional toll it can take on its victims. It revels in life’s darker moments but offers hope.

Eleanor (Adelina Amasco) is a quiet loner living in the Bronx with her grandmother (Shirley Cuyugan O’Brien). Each day at school, she is bullied by her peers due to the large birthmarks on her face. Of all the bullies, Carly (Vanessa Carmona) is the worst. She enjoys teasing Eleanor, and takes a particular disliking to her just because she’s “weird.” After several instances of bullying and school intervention, Eleanor finally snaps and lands herself in a world of trouble.

While Eleanor exists as an outsider at her school, teacher Ms. Gutierrez (Kathleen Changho) expresses her concern. Ms. Gutierrez notices Eleanor constantly skips school and works on the side to support herself. She also recognizes the animosity Eleanor endures from her fellow classmates. Genuinely concerned for Eleanor, Ms. Gutierrez stays by her side and encourages her to push forward.

After a horrible incident with school bully Carly (Vanessa Carmona), Eleanor becomes more of a social pariah than before. Despite being the one to provoke Eleanor, Carly decides to press charges against her. Eleanor’s charge brings shame to her family, and Ms. Gutierrez as well.

Thrust into unfair circumstances, Eleanor struggles to go about her day to day life. To escape her reality, Eleanor dreams of a peaceful world where there are others just like her. The majority of the film is shot in black and white, but the dream sequences pop into color. In Eleanor’s dream world, there is joy and freedom. In the real world, there is hopelessness and despair. During the day, Eleanor is surrounded by the urban, gritty New York landscape. In her fantasy, she rests in a utopia surrounded by mountains and water.

Once Eleanor transfers to a new school and attempts to move on, color seeps into her real life. The two realities begin to blur, and Eleanor finds happiness again, if only for a moment. Eleanor’s past comes back to haunt her, and she is forced to face Carly and the pending charges once again. As viewers, we want a happy ending for Eleanor, but will she get it? As Eleanor slips in an out of reality, will her desire to forget her circumstances help or harm her case? Lost and forgetful, Eleanor has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

“The Fever and the Fret” shows its audience what it’s like to be an outsider who tries to find a way to escape. Fueled by a powerful performance by Adelina Amasco, she leads viewers on a journey of a troubled young woman trying to get through life. Eleanor is stoic, rarely showing her emotions, even to those on her side. Hardened by her circumstances, Eleanor slips in and out of reality. After being beaten down by life, Eleanor emotionally shuts down. The ending of “The Fever and the Fret” is bittersweet, leaving the audience to interpret Eleanor’s ending.

There is a lot of weight behind the message of “The Fever and the Fret.” It’s a heavy film that deals with the sense of belonging, and what happens when you’re pushed too far. It’s not an easy watch, but it’s an unforgettable viewing experience sure to make you think.

The Fever and the Fret” is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.  

GRADE(★★★)

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