The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed (2024) Movie Review

Arnow’s narrative debut is a witty, nonsensational portrait of BDSM

When my friend and I stepped out of The Feeling that the Time for Doing Something Has Passed, having seen it at last year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival, she declared it to be the least sexy film she’d ever seen with that much sex in it. And though at surface level that might seem like a dig, it was a great compliment to the film, given the feelings and themes director Joanna Arnow was trying to capture.

The Feeling stars Arnow as Ann, a Jewish woman from Brooklyn, in a mosaic-style narrative of all the mundanities of her life–from a bland office job to her BDSM relationship with dom Allen (Scott Cohen), as well other chapters in her life with different partners (Babak Tafti) and sex friends.

Arnow puts a fresh spin on an old story–that of a New York woman’s sex life–with dry and acerbic wit, as well as a mind to show the “normalcy” of BDSM. In this interview at Cannes, Arnow notes that the portrayal of sexuality in her films isn’t meant to be subversive or provocative but to “show what’s integral and essential to the story in a comedic and nonsensational way.” It’s just so that, whenever you step back and look at Ann’s BDSM relationships, they look kind of ridiculous, mundane, and even funny–in the way that any “normal” thing often looks absurd when you look at it from an objective distance.

When Cohen’s Allen demands Ann run naked back and forth across the room in between sucking his nipples–of course this looks more than a little funny. It’s sex, but it’s not “sexy,” at least not to an outside viewer. But that we are on the outside looking in is exactly the point. If someone were to look in on our lives, our sexual preferences, our regular habits… what do you think they’d find? Arnow is just brave enough to invite that inspection.

And it’s not Arnow’s first time exploring these sexual themes. While The Feeling draws on the director’s life (Arnow goes so far as to cast herself and her parents in the film), her 2013 documentary I Hate Myself 🙂 turns the camera directly onto her real-life, yearlong relationship with toxic boyfriend James. I unfortunately couldn’t find it to screen, but I’m still intrigued by the ways her filmography seems to explore masochism, internalized misogyny, desire, and loneliness.

There’s an impressive self-awareness to these personal concepts Arnow explores in her films. It’s likely how she so perfectly captured Anne as a character, from her dry wit (Her dating profile reads she doesn’t like it “when people get too upset over 9/11”) to her guarded yet warmhearted persona.

But the director/actor/writer has a broader focus than the personal, and she’s particularly brilliant at highlighting the absurdity and mundanity of everyday situations. From short, spliced takes of random conversations, to long, drawn-out takes of sexual scenarios or, in one case, the noisy emptying of a pouch of soup–Arnow has a spot-on sense of timing when it comes to editing the film to show how some moments in life are inherently awkward or funny from some viewpoints. It makes the film endlessly relatable–whether or not you share qualities with a Brooklyn-based Jewish woman who’s into BDSM.

When we get down to it, the film is unpolished in places, and it likely appeals to a very niche audience. But The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed is altogether more impressive than its flaws, especially considering its refreshingly nonsensational portrait of BDSM and Ann’s strong personal arc. Based on this inventive and outrageously funny narrative debut, Joanna Arnow is a director to watch.


The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed will be released in U.S. theaters on April 26.

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  • Verdict - 9/10

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