Feeling Through (2020)
Director: Doug Roland
Screenwriter: Doug Roland
Starring: Steven Prescod, Robert Tarango
What would you do if you came across a DeafBlind man on the street in the middle of the night? Would you help him, or tell yourself that he’s not your problem and move on? These are the questions at the heart of 2021 Oscars Live-Action Short nominee Feeling Through, from screenwriter-director Doug Roland.
A teenage boy looking for a place to stay on a cold New York City night comes across a man awaiting assistance to cross a road. Deaf and blind, the man communicates by writing onto a notepad, asking that those who communicate with him do so through writing onto his palm. Despite facing the possibility of an evening on the unforgiving streets of one the United States’ most densely populated metropolitan areas, the teenager chooses to help the DeafBlind man, Feeling Through telling the tale of what happens when your perspective on life is turned upside down by an unexpected encounter.
At the core of Feeling Through is the message that we are each defined not by the circumstances of how we exist, but by the choices we make from moment to moment. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the teenage protagonist Tereek and each of the moments in which he makes a choice – whether it be stopping to help the DeafBlind man, forgoing his opportunity of temporary residence to see through his assistance of the DeafBlind man, or stealing money from the DeafBlind man – the power of Feeling Through coming in how we acknowledge that Tereek is good; that for all that is working against him in the world, he continues making the best moral decisions even when nobody else is looking.
Steven Prescod excels as the teen in a vulnerable state, Tereek imbued with a fragility and pain that is easily recognisable to those who have been through similar circumstances. His performance, wide eyed but heavy browed, is one of anguish, his choices from moment to moment presented with reluctance born out of self-preservation. Prescod excels in each and every scene, and his DeafBlind co-star Robert Tarango is equally as unmissable. Tarango, who is a DeafBlind actor, beautifully portrays a warm and glowing character that you can’t help but to want to stay with after the credits begin to roll.
Though not filled with the landmarks of the New York skyline, Feeling Through does a tremendous job of establishing its environment through its beautifully shot night time scenes. The cinematography is delectable, every scene lit in such a way that always feels naturalistic yet looks truly cinematic, the colour grading superbly balancing the colours of store fronts and graffiti with the darkness of the night. There are no particularly complicated camera movements or unique audio-visual expressions, but this isn’t that type of film. The characters, their respective ailments and their relationships to their city are the most important aspects to capture, and Feeling Through does precisely that.
At its core, Feeling Through is a simple premise; a film that gets characters from Point A to Point B whilst learning bits about them along the way. But the manner in which it is told, and how every aspect of the filmmaking is constructed to explore the characters and the themes, is truly where the power of this short film lies. Feeling Through is just 18 minutes, but it’s an 18 minutes that is densely packed with meaning and purpose; a must-see Oscar nominee.