My Name Is ‘A’ by Anonymous, 2012.
Written and Directed by Shane Ryan.
Starring Katie Marsh, Demi Baumann, Teona Dolnikova, Alex Damiano, Kaliya Skye and Joseph Marsh.
Inspired by the tragic murder of 9 year old Elizabeth Olten, at the hands of Alyssa Bustamante (in Missouri, 2009), My Name is ‘A’ is a fictional depiction of events leading up to the killing. The film focuses on several young woman, told initially from differing points of view, before the film brings them together.
The primary focus here is Alyssa, a troubled teen. We’re introduced to her just hanging around with a girlfriend, known only as “The sidekick.” They abuse each other verbally, discuss killing and also self-harm. The fascination with violence and pain seems central in Alyssa’s mind. The film, probably rightly, never tries to glamourise, nor does it attempt to give too much sympathetic light to Alyssa. As for the other girls, “the sidekick” is merely a sounding board for Alyssa. We also follow a girl known as “the performer.” She’s someone unhappy in life who aspires to be a singer, but is stuck in a rut, probably being abused by her father. Then there is a bulimic girl known as “the angst” who is being abused by her father. There’s a line that connects them all. A chain that links one to the other, be it self-harming and/or sexual abuse.
This is not an easy film to watch at all. Writer/director Shane Ryan is unflinching in his telling of the story. The degree of the literal and the metaphysical is down to audience interpretation, but what is sure is that Ryan has crafted a film that cuts deep. Shot largely in handheld and flitting between docu-style, and found footage (all the girls film on camera phones) the film feels, often disturbingly real. The young cast are all very good indeed, injecting their roles with a great deal of reality. Katie Marsh portrays Alyssa with great rawness.
The film’s black and white segments look beautiful, whilst the music by Teona Dolnikova is ominous and atmospheric right off the bat. The whole shaky cam thing maybe getting a little tiresome at this point as a stylistic choice but for the purpose of this film it kind of works. It’s erratic, unstable, just like the central character.
As I said earlier, the films a tough watch. The subject matter alone makes it so and it’s a film that would never see the light of day in mainstream cinema. Certainly not without being watered down in the safety of conventionality. The intent here is well laid out. The execution doesn’t always hit the mark. At times the film meanders whilst the dénouement needs to be streamlined. The film almost doesn’t seem to know when or how to end, but given the unconventionality of its narrative, that’s probably not that much of a surprise.
Unflinching and uncompromising this film is quite haunting at times. This isn’t a Friday night beer and pizza movie by any stretch of the imagination. If you can’t find it in yourself to invest in a film with such a dark subject matter and undiluted taste then this is definitely not for you. Escapist entertainment this is not. To see some well-intentioned indie cinema with some great raw acting that is also thought provoking, look no further.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★