AFF 2013 Review: NSFW

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

For those who are not-so-savvy in internet lingo, NSFW stands for Not Safe For Work. This abbreviation labels internet content that should only be viewed at home and not at work.  This film has this appropriate title, as the main character, Elenore (Audrey Kovar), spends much of her time posing nude for pictures and videos she posts online. Whenever she is not practicing exhibitionism, Elenore unhappily spends her time in a broken relationship with another woman named Dee (Diedre Herlihy) and having no-strings-attached sexual encounters with a man named Eugene (Richard Buonagurio). As her relationship with Dee deteriorates further, her relationship with Eugene begins to blossom and reveals his motivation for seeking her out.

Written and directed by Ryan Andrew Balas, NSFW is a candid and intimate portrait of people, relationships, and exhibitionism in the internet age. The main character, Elenore, obviously has problems connecting with people on a more personal level.  Despite her penchant for exposing her flesh on the internet and having casual sex with Eugene, she never reveals too much about herself and her background. Balas’ film succeeds as a study in human psychology and behavior in a time where many people often share TMI (too much information) on the internet everyday. In a way, people share much more about themselves through social media, but are they really sharing the truth or are they just sharing how they want to be perceived?

Elenore exposes her body and has mostly empty sexual encounters in lieu of real intimacy and love. Balas never reveals why Elenore has chosen this way of expressing herself, but lets his audience experience it in a realistic manner. The audience gets to meet and witness Elenore and her superficial exploits, but don’t completely get to know the real person. Balas only gives his audience a glimpse of her in her relationships with Dee and Eugene.

Balas should be lauded for his stark realism and superb compositions. Stylistically, the film is cinema verite in its purest and perhaps most modern form. Both Audrey Kovar and Richard Buonagurio deliver beautifully intimate and courageous performances. I would absolutely love to see these talented actors in more films. I also sincerely hope that, with NSFW, Ryan Andrew Balas makes a strong breakthrough in independent cinema.

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