VOD titles are in the midst of a breakthrough moment, with many films being released to theaters and available to stream simultaneously. The blockbuster format is still tried and true, but the benefits of instantaneous streaming are huge to smaller, intimate films. Movies in all sorts of genres can reap the rewards of wider availability to audiences without necessarily having to negotiate the terms or budget for rolling out in theaters nationwide.
Because it’s a newer evolution in the business, the format is still open for experimentation. Some choose to release to VOD around the same time a traditional DVD would come out, while others push a concurrent VOD opening and theatrical release. Whatever the case may be, the end result is that we are seeing a greater variety of stories playing out on screen, including those that are about women. Freedom from the constraints of studio requirements allows these filmmakers to be more bold and make interesting choices, which is always a good thing in a world that desperately needs more women of all different kinds onscreen. These are a few of the noteworthy, female-focused VOD releases as of late.
Teresa Palmer and Mark Webber are married actors-turned-indie filmmakers with a self-funded, self-distributed, and self-directed debut. “The Ever After” depicts a married couple in Los Angeles (played by Palmer and Webber) struggling to maintain the connection that initially brought them together. Rosario Dawson, Melissa Leo, and Phoebe Tonkin co-star, with an original soundtrack by Moby.
The fact that the production was mostly financed by Palmer and Webber gives a new meaning to the term “indie” — it truly is independently made, which allows for an unprecedented amount of artistic freedom. The duo has stated that this was an intentional choice, saying, “We are redefining what it means to be independent and giving you the film straight from the artist to your screen.”
Everly (Available Now)
“Everly” has been described as “‘Die Hard’ in an apartment,” but with another twist: it stars a female lead. Salma Hayek steps into a new type of role, playing an action heroine with ease. She portrays a woman who becomes an informant on her boss, the head of the local mob. The film progresses with each assassin sent to kill her confronting her in her apartment, with the chaos building to more outlandish levels.
“Everly” has been available to stream for a month now, and was released theatrically February 27. An unorthodox move, to be sure, but VOD is already stretching the boundaries of movie watching, and if the decision was aimed at building buzz before the theatrical run, it definitely worked.
X/Y (March 6)
“X/Y” is at turns intimate, uncomfortable, messy, and raw, making for an intense viewing experience. The film was produced by America Ferrera and directed by her husband, Ryan Piers Williams, with both of them also acting in it. It follows four friends in separate segments devoted to each of them, although the central narrative is the relationship of Ferrera and Williams’ characters, which suffers a fracture at the beginning of the film. It’s a portrait of the late twenty-something, early-thirties experience, with each story depicting a struggle with authenticity in relationships in the age of ever-increasing technological reliance. It doesn’t aim to be a universally relatable story, but this only adds to it’s edge. It’s an experimental format, which makes for compelling viewing.
Nicole Boxer has proven herself as a powerful documentarian, producing the Academy Award-nominated “The Invisible War,” which investigates the rape epidemic of women in the military, as well as “The Hunting Ground,” about rape on college campuses. “How I Got Over” is her first directing credit, and it fits well in her thematic body of work.
The film follows a group of women who have transitioned from a life on the streets as they prepare a stage play based on their lived experiences. The question “can art save lives?” is presented as the film’s major thesis, but it is also about these women saving themselves through the catharsis of their shared creative environment. As they rehearse and work up to their one-night-only performance at the Kennedy Center, their life stories are intertwined with the narrative of both the film and the play. In telling their stories of the horrible things they have survived, they break themselves open and work together to become whole again.