email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on LinkedIn share on reddit pin on Pinterest


Review: What a Feeling


- Kat Rohrer’s feel-good lesbian romcom is predictable but enjoyable thanks to its endearing cast

Review: What a Feeling
Proschat Madani (left) and Caroline Peters in What a Feeling

Kat Rohrer’s What a Feeling, which played at the BFI Flare festival in London, begins with a most scandalous scene. The camera slides across the floor of an apartment, revealing scattered clothes and lingerie, before finally reaching the source of the rather loud moans we’ve been hearing: a woman, evidently very satisfied by whoever is under the covers. Soon, the stranger is revealed to be another woman, carpenter Fa (Proschat Madani), who turns out to be quite a character. Not only does she entertain quite a few of her clients in this way, but some of them are even married to men, who are none the wiser. Looking at the way she leads her life, comfortably moving from one such encounter to family gatherings and, later, a lesbian bar, she appears to be very comfortable with who she is. 

(The article continues below - Commercial information)
Hot docs EFP inside

But is she, really? Upon meeting her mother, it becomes clear that the latter has no idea about her daughter’s sexual orientation. Fa is in her fifties, and coming out to her very traditional Iranian mother now of course seems to her like a terrifying prospect. In any case, it’s not like Fa ever plans to bring any one of her casual partners to dinner… 

From that perspective, then, it seems that the one who truly has it all is Marie Theres (Caroline Peters). A successful doctor, rich and married to a lovely man, she is raising a typically angry but intelligent teenage daughter and appears very happy to go on with her petit bourgeois routine indefinitely. Somewhat unexpectedly in a modern film about female emancipation, it’s Marie Theres’ husband who turns out to be unsatisfied with this kind of life. Unable to get his ideas across to her, he simply exits the family home, leaving Marie Theres confused and bereft. Drunk one night, she accidentally ends up in a lesbian bar. And who does she meet there? None other than the woman who almost ran her over with her truck earlier that day: Fa herself. 

Through a series of serendipitous and just about believable encounters, the two women — both rather brash and in middle life, but at first glance diametrically opposed — keep running into one another. However, not all of those encounters are of the kind familiar from the romcom. The scene where Marie Theres bumps into Fa at the lesbian bar, where she’s gone to retrieve the phone she lost on her drunken night there, is a tenderly humiliating scenario familiar from the genre. More original in the women’s reconnection through an altogether less cute situation: after Fa’s mother collapses at home, Marie Theres is assigned to be her doctor. 

It is through the women’s mutual recognition of their own respective struggles, rather than through the classic tropes of the romcom, that affection and romance are born. Through sex, too: the film adopts a nuanced perspective on the age-old question of the relationship between sex and romance, recognising the value of physical chemistry while acknowledging the importance of deep personal connection. Marie Theres and Fa both arrive at that same conclusion, only from opposing directions. And while Marie Theres’s journey into discovering the value of pleasure and disinhibition isn’t terribly original, Fa goes through more painful and destabilising realisations linked to her Iranian identity and her relationship with her family. She has much more to lose in opening up, and watching her do so is genuinely moving. 

Handsomely shot and assembled, What a Feeling may not reinvent the wheel. But from a familiar set of tropes, Rohrer crafts an intelligent if rather predictable portrait of women in middle age who still have a lot to learn — but also a lot to feel, enjoy and experience, about themselves and the world. 

What a Feeling was produced by Austria’s Praherfilm and Nikolaus Geyrhalter Filmproduktion

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

Privacy Policy